Built to Scale

We built our knowledge infrastructure to scale. We want to prove that universal access can work at a large scale and become a model for national replication.

Why Built to Scale?

So we can grow our impact and become a model for national replication.

The infrastructure we’ve built to power our programming is efficient and repeatable. In the first four years of existence, we were able to triple our operating budget every year.

What does universal access mean?

Custom-Built Technology Platform

We custom built a series of applications on the Salesforce platform to manage everything from the intake/triage process, case management, volunteer tracking, donor management, and grant reporting. Plus, we’re able to seamlessly sync our data (pending client’s permission) with our social service partners, allowing integrated case management. Because all our case notes and documents are saved in the cloud, we can easily onboard and manage large numbers of volunteers. Best of all, we’re able to run analytics on our cases and continually spot ways we can improve the quality and efficiency of our work.The information technology system we built has the potential to handle tens of thousands of cases and coordinate hundreds of service providers and will be applied to new locations as we grow.ons.

New thinking on talent management

If we’re going to create universal access and effectively practice in more than 35 areas of law, we need the best attorneys on our staff. That means paying them well and providing enough avenues for professional growth

Funding that grows

Through high impact, good storytelling, and compelling data analytics, we’ve been able to consistently attract new supporters and develop a track record of growth.

CITATIONS

1. American University, Key Studies and Data About How Legal Aid Improves Housing Outcomes https://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/toolkit/upload/housing-7-30-19.pdf

2. George Washington Law School, In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi

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.