Housing Law Intern

I saw how access to legal help can change someone’s life and lift them out of poverty. It was then that I realized I wanted to go into public interest law.

“I was born in the Philippines, where I lived in both middle class and low-income neighborhoods. I witnessed first hand how different the lives of the poor are from the rest of the country. This gave me a passion for helping those less fortunate than me. Then when I was five, I moved to California.

While I was an undergraduate, I volunteered in Panama with lawyers who were trying to increase the availability of legal services in rural communities. I saw how access to legal help can change someone’s life and lift them out of poverty. It was then that I realized I wanted to go into public interest law. I found Open Door Legal through my school website. Their work was a continuance of what I did as an undergraduate. It was a perfect fit.

I work as a legal intern on the housing team. Having that opportunity to see the nitty-gritty of housing in San Francisco and what it takes to help people means so much to me.

I once saw some clients come in who had already been evicted– seeing the need and the lack of outside resources first hand reinforced my belief in the fight for universal access. I’ve always wanted to do law, but working here justified my choices and gave me a reason to practice it. I’m really grateful.”

Photography © Kimberly Pye


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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.