Reginald

Torts Law Client

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.

“I’ve always loved working with my hands: pouring concrete, doing construction, etc. Some of my bosses were pretty strict. If I didn’t do what I was told, I would be fired. I was raising my kids on my own, so losing my job was not an option.

Later in my career, I joined my brother at a new company – I was so excited. One day while I was doing a delivery, I saw a car speeding onto the freeway behind me. The driver rammed into my van. I twisted my back and hit my head on the ceiling of the vehicle.

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.

I recently had a heart attack, and I worried that the accident had made my health worse. I felt so lost. That’s when a friend recommended that I check out Open Door Legal.

The staff was amazing. They treated me like I was a 100 when I felt like a 2. There, I learned that my license had been suspended after the accident. I was shocked – all this time I was driving I could have been pulled over and sent to jail. They got it reinstated and helped me win $10,000 in small claims court to cover the costs of the accident and my medical expenses.

Now that this is over I feel much calmer. I’ve started volunteering with the counselors in my apartment building. I help them check in on seniors and make sure everyone is happy and healthy. I really love it. It reminds me of my time in construction: you’ve got to put in the work to see results.”

Photography © Jona Bocari

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.