How we’re keeping families safe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claudia came to the US to start a new life. Unfortunately, she still couldn’t escape her abusive husband.

When Claudia called the police for help, they blamed her. She was arrested and spent a week in jail. When she was released, she had an order barring her from entering her home; her kids were left alone with her abuser. Claudia went to multiple organizations for help and they all turned away. She thought all hope was lost.

One week before her first hearing, Claudia found Open Door Legal. We took her case, and in the end got Claudia a divorce, a restraining order from her ex, and full custody of her children, along with child support. 

The problem

Low-income people in abusive relationships or who fear for their children’s safety are being excluded from our legal system.

 

Our solution

Provide universal access to legal help for all family law issues, so that all parents and families have safe paths to resolution.

Legal aid is the only intervention found to actually reduce rates of domestic violence

According to a 2003 study by Economics Professor Amy Farmer, women living in counties with shelters, hotlines, safe homes, emergency transportation, programs for batterers, children’s programs, and counseling are not significantly less likely to be victims of intimate partner abuse than women who live in counties without these services.

However, women who live in counties with legal assistance programs to help battered women are significantly less likely to report abuse.¹ 

Help more families like Claudia’s

Meet our family law clients

Read more family stories here.

Walter’s Story

Shirley’s Story

Karen’s Story

CITATIONS

1. Amy Farmer, University of Arkansas, Explaining the Recent Decline in Domestic Violence https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1093/cep/byg002 

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.