Founded in 1876, to defend the individual rights of German immigrants who could not afford to hire a lawyer, the Society now provides a full range of civil legal services, as well as criminal defense work, and juvenile representation in Family Court. The Society's core service is to provide free legal assistance to New Yorkers who live at or below the poverty level and cannot afford to hire a lawyer when confronted with a legal problem. The Society handles more than 200,000 indigent criminal cases every year, serves as attorneys to more than 30,000 children and represents families, individuals and community groups in more than 30,000 cases. Legal Aid also conducts major class action litigation on behalf of thousands of welfare recipients, foster children, homeless families, elderly poor, inmates at Rikers Island and prisoners. In New York City, the group acts as an agency for contract attorneys for criminal defendants.