Becky

Employment/Real Estate Attorney

One of my first cases was against a major insurance company who was accusing our clients of fraud. I’ve never seen someone treated as bad as our clients were. The way the opposing counsel acted … I thought it was reserved for documentaries from 50 years ago. This is supposed to be San Francisco in 2017!

“I got my law license in 2013 and worked off and on at a variety of places, but I always felt proscribed. After the 2016 election, though, I felt a pressing need to help effect change. I heard about Open Door Legal through my sister.

One of my first cases was against a major insurance company who was accusing our clients of fraud. I’ve never seen someone treated as bad as our clients were. The way the opposing counsel acted … I thought it was reserved for documentaries from 50 years ago. This is supposed to be San Francisco in 2017!

At first I was motivated by guilt and worried I wouldn’t be able to make an impact. But we can, which is rad. I feel like because I have the ability to help, I’m obligated to do so. The work is so rewarding and has meaning, more so than I could have imagined.”

Photography © Lauren Lombard

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.