Douglas’s Story

Douglas’ Story Douglas was defrauded and denied housing. After an accident at the San Francisco Shipyard, Douglas was suddenly disabled, out of work, and falling further and further into debt. He became the victim of several scams and ultimately was rejected for...

Michelle’s Story

Michelle’s Story Michelle spent months with sewage filling her tub and toilet, years without heating Michelle lives in public housing and her unit had a lot of problems. She went years without heating. Mold grew in the walls. But worst of all, sewage continually...

Shirley’s Story

Shirley’s Story Shirley Is Determined To Help Her Grandson Thrive Shirley took Anthony into her home at just six months old. 12 years later, Anthony’s talents began to attract the attention of everyone – from athletic recruiters to his unstable mother....

Maria’s Story

Maria’s Story After getting evicted, Maria and her family of 14 thought they’d end up on the streets. Now, they’re first-time homeowners. Maria and her close-knit family of 14 have been together living together for over a decade. One day, after...

Kelly Persisted

Kelly’s* Story Kelly’s family was put in danger with no alternative in sight. Kelly persisted. Representation can make or break the outcome of a client’s legal battle – regardless of who’s truly at fault. Kelly Smith’s case is a great example. Kelly...

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.