The Opportunity

Legal aid is the least funded and most cost-effective way to address poverty in America.

The Opportunity

Legal aid is the least funded and most cost-effective way to address poverty in America.

Number of eligible low-income people per legal aid attorney in California 1

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A Lack of Funding

There aren’t enough attorneys because there isn’t enough funding. If you add up the total amount spent in the entire United States by all public and charitable sources, it amounts to less than the cost of one jet bomber2

Due to the lack of funding, countries like Senegal, Malawi, and Nigeria all rate better in access to civil justice than the United States. All dark colored countries on this map are ranked higher than us by the World Justice Project. 3

This Means There’s Usually No Help

When Your Property is Seized…

When Sewage Invades Your Home…

When You’re Trying to Escape Abuse…

When Your Identity is Stolen…

There Are No Consequences

Since there’s usually no help – bad people, companies, and agencies are able to violate the law with impunity. Due to the lack of legal aid attorneys, the chances they will ever be punished for their misconduct is minuscule. The costs of defending the sporadic suit are certainly less than the money saved by violating the law. As a practical matter, the law does not protect the poor.

More Problems

Without the threat of enforcement, illegal conduct proliferates. Slumlords, abusers, creditors and more continually violate the rights of the poor. As a result, low-income Americans face about 260% more unaddressed legal problems than middle-class Americans.4

We Can Change It

If we work together, we can make the law work for everyone.

Legal aid is the only human service that faces a human adversary. By changing the behavior of adverse parties, we can ensure that fewer people will need help. Because of this, our data has shown that legal services is both the least funded and most cost-effective way to address poverty.

How We're Creating Universal Access


1. American University, Key Studies and Data About How Legal Aid Improves Housing Outcomes

2. George Washington Law School, In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services

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.