Membership & Governance

We believe that non-profits work best when all stakeholders – clients, volunteers, donors, staff members, and directors – can come together and form a common vision for how the non-profit should operate and grow. To facilitate this, we have organized as a membership-based non-profit and given all our clients, donors, volunteers membership rights.
There are three ways to become a full-voting member of Open Door Legal, inc.

  • Become a legal services client.
  • Donate at to the organization at least once in the year prior to the annual meeting
  • Be an active volunteer in any capacity

Members set organization policy in at least three ways:

  • They approve the annual strategic plan during the annual meeting
  • They elect the board of directors, who meet bi-monthly and ensure that staff are adhering to the strategic plan
  • Special councils of members (selected at random) may meet at times during the year to clarify or modify the strategic plan and provide oversight to the staff

Of course, participation by members in the governance of the non-profit is encouraged, but voluntary.

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.