When Randolph met his wife-to-be Lisa, it was to be that enduring, simple kind of love. But when Lisa passed away last year, not only did Randolph lose the love of his life, Randolph also learned he would be losing the home he made with Lisa for 38 years.

Lisa gave Randolph the right to reside in the home for as long as he wished, but Lisa’s children started trying to evict him soon after her death. Fearing homelessness and on a fixed income, Randolph came to our office for help.

When Randolph started asking more questions, Lisa’s son hired an attorney. Randolph was asked to leave with a month’s notice and was not offered any reimbursement for his contributions to the house.

That is when he came to Open Door Legal. Our staff attorney, David Smith and a legal intern named Marlyn, initiated negotiations that resulted in an award of $25,000 and more time for Randolph to move out.

Randolph was elated with the result and has just started looking for a new home in the community. As Randolph begins a new chapter, he reflected on his experience with Open Door Legal, “I’d recommend anyone who can’t afford an attorney to come here and get some guidance. That made me feel good right there [as he said this, he touched both hands to his heart].”

Client’s name and/or photo was changed at his request to protect his identity.


Posted on

May 5, 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.