Social ROI

Our research shows that for every $1 we spent, we generated $6.63 in financial benefits for our clients and deterred $14.75 in illegal activity.

Direct Benefit

Deterrence Value

We analyzed our costs and case results using a standard methodology created by the Robin Hood Foundation and discovered that for every one dollar we spent on services and overhead, we generated about $6.63 in short and long term financial benefits for our clients and deterred up to $14.75 in illegal activity.

When you compare our social return on investment to other high-performing nonprofits in other sectors, who used the same methodology to arrive at their results, you can see that legal services easily has the highest SROI.

This doesn’t mean other types of human services aren’t incredibly important. It does mean that when governments, foundations, and individuals are looking to invest in ways that address poverty, legal services should be the first intervention that’s funded, not the last.

  • Legal Services 85.6% 85.6%
  • Food Kitchen and Services 24% 24%
  • Early Childhood Education 20% 20%
  • Micro-Finance 16.8% 16.8%
  • Elementary School 16.4% 16.4%
  • Women’s Shelter 12% 12%
  • Public Health Clinic 12% 12%
  • Housing and Services 12% 12%
  • Financial Education 7.6% 7.6%

To review our full methodology, check out our report.

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.