Mary

“I’ve always advocated for the well being of families in my classroom, so my next challenge seemed obvious: fighting for them in court.”

Jona

“My mother’s family was upper middle class until the government seized their land and property. They were left with practically nothing; my mother had to start from scratch.”

Monique

“After we won, the client pulled us aside. ‘Never forget,’ she told us, ‘that you saved a little girl’s life.'”

Heidi

“Open Door Legal has taught me the power of passion. Passionate people can catalyze change and transform communities. I see that fire within everyone who works here. It is not enough to recognize injustice– to make a difference, you must be dedicated to fighting it.”

Spencer

“I believe that everyone with a legal need deserves a lawyer no matter who they are or what situation they’re in. If you don’t have a way to enforce your rights, you don’t really have them. I hope that the work I’ve done for Open Door Legal brings San Francisco one step closer to creating true equal protection under the law.”

Thea

“I saw how access to legal help can change someone’s life and lift them out of poverty. It was then that I realized I wanted to go into public interest law.”

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.