Dear friends,

I am writing with exciting news and a request. A few months ago, I took a risk by taking a job with a small, start-up, scrappy legal aid nonprofit called Open Door Legal. The office is run out of a former beauty parlor in San Francisco’s poorest neighborhood, the Bayview. We’re near the city’s biggest housing project, Hunter’s Point. We have 5 full-time staff members and we share office space with the Salvation Army.

We are the only legal aid office in the entire zip code, and we are doing something that’s never been done before — attempting to offer universal access to legal help for everyone who lives in the zip code, regardless of issue. WE JUST GOT SELECTED BY GOOGLE AS ONE OF THE “10 MOST INNOVATIVE NONPROFITS IN THE BAY AREA.” They’re going to give a half-million dollar grant to four of these ten organizations — the four who get the most votes. So I’m writing to ask you to VOTE FOR US, and to tell all your kids/friends/kids’ friends to do so too! Anyone with internet access can vote! Vote by clicking

here: https://goo.gl/yinL1n

It doesn’t cost money! It doesn’t steal your email address or spam you or virus you or make you sign up for a Macy’s Gold Plus Super Sultan Executive Platinum Lifetime Membership Club Elite Hertz Plutonium card! You just click on that link, click “Vote” to vote for Open Door Legal, and help us win a grant!

I’m one of only two full-time staff attorneys. I don’t have my own office. I work off of a laptop in a shared space about the size of an RV. I’m in court almost every day helping my clients – who otherwise wouldn’t have an attorney – fight for freedom from violence, fight to keep their homes, fight to keep their kids, and fight for housing that isn’t infested with rats, roaches, and black mold. I’ve been learning how to negotiate with people who are angry to find out that the person they were suing now has a lawyer. I’ve been learning how family court is different from housing court, and how to counsel my own clients who are used to being ignored and trampled on.

I love my job. This is why I went to law school. More specifically, this is why I took the Gates Public Service Law Scholarship to go to the University of Washington; and what I dreamt about someday doing, back when I worked as a teacher in a village in Honduras with Bilingual Education for Central America. I’m so, so, so, incredibly proud of my little organization for getting this huge honor.

There: vote for us again!

https://goo.gl/yinL1n

Read a story about one of my clients!

https://votebhpcl.com/meet-monica/

Love,

Hilary

 

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.