Glenn’s life is a winding road of unexpected turns, beautiful views, and occasional accidents. He was in The Homebrew Computer Club, which fostered the brilliant minds of individuals such as Steve Jobs and Gordon French. He is now a veteran who fell through the cracks of social welfare policies and reintegration projects. As late age approached Glenn began to suffer from memory loss which led to him stockpiling several debts.

His hardships were no excuse for him not to give back to his community. Trey, a member of The Salvation Army, referred Glenn to Open Door Legal, where he volunteered at the front desk. One day, Glenn confided in our staff that he had been living out of his car on a small retirement check, which was now being seized by his creditors. He was scared the government would take away the few assets he had left.

Our attorneys, however, did not hesitate to help. Virginia Taylor, Director of Legal Services, took on the case and recommended to Glenn he file for personal bankruptcy to obtain relief from his debts. He agreed to the recommendation and started compiling all the documents necessary for the process to be completed.

The process for compiling the necessary paperwork for bankruptcy was especially difficult for Glenn. He could not adequately remember all his debts; every other week he would remember and bring in additional documentation. After he completed the pre-bankruptcy counseling, he lost the password he had made and the counseling service did not have a password recovery feature, forcing Glenn to complete the counseling all over.

The process also included an interview with a trustee, during which Glenn’s creditors had the to right to be present and question his accountability. None of his creditors appeared, and Glenn performed exceptionally well during the meeting. The trustee ordered all of Glenn’s debts to be discharged, except his student loan – which was a considerably small portion of the total amount originally owed.

Glenn is relieved to know the government won’t take away his car or his tax refund. He is also grateful for Open Door Legal and often comes to visit the office to see the faces of those who care about him. Glenn is now stably housed in a safe place in San Francisco. 

Skills

Posted on

July 10, 2015

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.