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Mary

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.”

Dele

Dele

“The only thing that stood in my way was 50 hours of pro bono work. A friend suggested that I volunteer at Open Door Legal– I decided to give it a shot.”

Jona

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.”

Harold

Harold

“That’s when a debt collector showed up at my work saying I owed over $23,000– I had no idea what he was talking about. Still, my wages were being garnished; I wasn’t sure if I could make rent.”

Ange

Ange

“For example, one Friday, around a quarter till five, everyone was about to head out for the weekend. In walks a client in tears; her husband had abused her. She tried to get help from multiple other legal aid organizations but they all turned her away. We were her only option left.”

Heidi

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.”

Pauline

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.”

Virginia

Virginia

“My client never thought that she could get help for living in mold and mildew; that was everyday life for her. And we didn’t stop there. ‘Do you have any custody issues? Do you need to speak with a social worker? We can help you with that too.’”

Spencer

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.”

Reginald

Reginald

“Because of the accident, I was taking 7 meds a day and needed to use a cane to walk. I had to leave my job. The other driver admitted to causing the accident – yet I never got compensated. I tried to reach out to my employer about this but he wouldn’t answer my calls.”

Anna

Anna

“Fighting for people matters. We have to claw, sweat, and bleed for the people around us. We need to put ourselves out there and protect each other, because if not, who else will?”

Anca

Anca

“In every elderly client, I see my own parents and grandparents. I get to learn about their lives and their families. In many ways, Bayview is similar to my home in Romania: access to legal aid is limited, and if we don’t help, no one else will.”

Charlene

Charlene

One time, he said he was going to pick her up from school but he never came. I had to stop what I doing and rush to get her. It was terrifying, learning that my young daughter had been left all alone. I worried for her safety.

Thea

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.”

Belinda

Belinda

“Since childhood, I’ve seen the barriers that keep people from what’s rightfully theirs. Now I get to help these people fight back.”

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.