AALDEF was founded over three decades ago by lawyers and community activists who were willing to train young Asian American lawyers, law students, and undergraduates who wanted to serve the needs of their communities. As these younger Asian Americans developed their skills and their own leadership potential, they went on to serve on AALDEF's board and staff. Many continue to provide legal services to the community while working in legal services offices, government agencies, and private law firms all across the country.
To develop the generation of leaders that will be serving the Asian American community in the 21st century, AALDEF created an Asian American Leadership Development Program. The program provides practical work experience in a community-based civil rights organization.
In the summer months, participants also take part in the Public Interest Law Center's Brown Bag lunch program. This program consists of a series of seminars on various civil rights issues developed and coordinated by Public Interest Law Center groups, including AALDEF, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Latino Justice PRLDEF.
AALDEF receives more than 200 applications for the Leadership Development Program each year, and everyone is welcome to apply. The participants in recent programs have attended law schools from California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.