Tasha

An Employment Law Client

I wouldn’t be here today without Open Door Legal. They listened, validated how I felt. They were honest with me. They helped me get therapy and put on the road to get better. Nobody else I talked to would listen to me, or even validate that there had been a problem, that what I had suffered had been wrong.

“I grew up in San Francisco, near Ingleside. I moved to Bayview in 2003. It was a unique experience: busy, I enjoyed it. The city has a lot to offer.

I was a new mother hired by the City of San Francisco to work in social services. I told them I needed time to pump when I was interviewing, but after being hired, they told me I couldn’t take breaks to pump. They harassed me every day and ignored my requests for accommodation. When I finally asked to see the policy about pumping, I was terminated.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to be fired for such a reason. I was depressed. I was devastated, blindsided, shocked that something like that can still happen. For reasons that had nothing to do with job performance, my career in social services was over.

I wouldn’t be here today without Open Door Legal. They listened, validated how I felt. They were honest with me. They helped me get therapy and put on the road to get better. Nobody else I talked to would listen to me, or even validate that there had been a problem, that what I had suffered had been wrong.

In the end, they helped me get compensation for the wrongs I had endured. Hopefully, this won’t happen to anyone else.”

Photography © Lauren Lombard

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.