Pasa

“When I moved my family across the globe, I thought that was the end of my problems. Then came the mold.

Pauline

“Suddenly, my rent increased by $2,000. That was more than my income. I felt filled to the brim with stress. This is where my family celebrated Christmas – getting evicted meant losing my family’s home base.”

Zoe

“We went outside our roles as attorneys and just interacted with our clients as human beings.”

Zulaika

“One day my landlord told me that she was selling the building. When the new owners came, they said my kids and I had to leave. They wanted to kick me out of my own home. I was lost on what to do: I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want an eviction on my record, especially when I had done nothing wrong.”

Cassaundra

My landlord gave me a 30-day notice, saying he was going to move in. He harassed me and made my life miserable. He left me without heating for months. He let me live with dead rodents and refused to patch a hole in the roof. I went to the Mayor’s office for help, and they referred me to an org who said they couldn’t help me. But walking down Third Street, I saw the sign for Open Door Legal and decided to come in.

LaChelle

LaChelle A Housing Law Client I found Open Door Legal and we were able to get additional evidence and a new hearing. Even then, they tried to dispute. They became focused on proving me wrong, not on fixing the problem. It was insulting. You know, sometimes you just...

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.