Probate/Wills/Trusts Law Client

That’s when it hit me: if something were to happen to my health, I would be completely unprepared.

“In 1961 I moved to Bayview-Hunters Point – it’s been my home ever since. I love it here. After retiring a few years ago, I thought I would be able to enjoy the community even more. Then, some legal issues arose.

One day I went to a seminar on living trusts, wills, and advance directives. That’s when it hit me: if something were to happen to my health, I would be completely unprepared. For example, if I was in the hospital and fell unconscious, I didn’t have a way to make sure that my daughter was in charge of my care. I learned that an advance directive would give my daughter such control.

Realizing I needed an advance directive was only the beginning: I had no idea how to get one. I couldn’t work with the folks from the seminar because the prices were outrageous; I would never be able to afford it. I was lucky, though, and remembered Open Door Legal. I had met one of their staffers, Cynthia, at a previous event, and she told me that Open Door Legal helps people with problems like mine all the time.

I was nervous at first, but that all went away once I started working with my attorney. She helped me in a timely manner, with professionalism and respect. Together, we created a full estate plan and made sure my daughter would have the power to make decisions for me when I am no longer able to.

I feel safer knowing that if I am in the hospital, my daughter has written, legal control over my care. It’s a relief to know that when I’m gone, there’s a plan in place to ensure that my family is taken care of. Now I can get back to what really matters: being a mother and a grandmother.”

Photography © Kimberly Pye


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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.