Meet Briana!

Meet Briana, Open Door Legal’s new Frontline Coordinator. Briana became interested in working for Open Door Legal almost as soon as she heard about it. Having grown up in Hunters Point, Briana knows a lot about the neighborhood. “I joined the team because I want to help my people.” When Briana found out she would get to work at the front desk, she was excited. “I love being the first person our clients speak to. Life out here is complicated; there’s always more than one issue going on with our clients. You start to see patterns that lead people to us.”

I joined the team, because I want to help my people.

As a Frontline Coordinator, Briana gets to direct our clients towards the people in our office who can help mend problems that have been building for years. “It’s great to figure out how to make the bleeding stop. I want to offer relief and make people feel better. I want to listen and help people feel that I’m trying to understand. I don’t have to side with people, I just have to put myself in their shoes and ask myself ‘what would I do if that was me? How would I feel?’ and always give people the benefit of the doubt.”

I want to listen and help people feel that I’m trying to understand.

Since working at Open Door Legal, Briana has learned that a lot of people need legal help. “Beforehand, I didn’t think it was that big of an issue. But every day, someone is getting evicted. Someone is experiencing domestic violence. Someone is losing their child. These are everyday issues. Here, I can learn the basics of what is a legal issue and what isn’t. I feel like I’m going to school every time I walk into the office.”

Before joining the Open Door Legal team, Briana worked as an administrative assistant with Root and Rebound, a nonprofit hotline service that helps incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals transition back into society. When not at work, Briana enjoys cooking for family and friends and going to the park with her daughter.

Ever since childhood, our co-founder Adrian has been dedicated to reducing poverty.

He studied systemic poverty in college and went to work in the field for a few years. Eventually, he had a thesis that legal aid was the most cost-effective way to address poverty in America. He wrote up a business plan and used it to apply to law school. 

The idea was to create the country’s first system of universal access to civil legal representation that ensures everyone can obtain timely, competent legal help for any legal issue, regardless of ability to pay. That had never been done before in the history of the United States.

In law school, he met Virginia, our Programs Director. Together, they co-founded the organization, two weeks after Adrian passed the bar.

When we opened we put a sign in the window, and with just that marketing and almost no other outreach we were overwhelmed with requests for help from people with good cases who had been turned away everywhere else.

Our first year we had revenue of $35,000. We would hand shred documents because a shredder was too expensive. Despite the financial challenges, we were able to work on over 280 cases in everything from housing law to family law to consumer law in the first year alone.

The hours were extreme, the pay was low, and the learning curve was steep. Still, we persisted. We knew that almost everyone we helped was not able to receive services anywhere else. Eventually, we attracted the interest of funders. We tripled our revenue for several years in a row. In 2015, we won the Bay Area Google Impact Challenge, which enabled us to expand even more. In 2019, we secured additional funding from the city that allowed us to open two new centers in the Excelsior and Western Addition.

As of 2020, our staff has grown to 27 full-time employees. We’ve shown that universal access is possible. Now, we plan to scale city-wide, make San Francisco the first city in the country’s history to have universal access to legal help, and become a model for national replication.