In 2015 Google selected us as one of the 10 most innovative non-profits in the Bay Area, out of an applicant pool of over 800 nonprofits.

As part of its Impact 2015 Challenge, and following a public voting phase, Google awarded us $500,000 and offered to provide technical and volunteer assistance to spur our growth.

We’re using this opportunity to further grow our system of universal access to civil justice. We are prototyping what this would look like in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods. We hope to continue scaling, serve more people, and eventually have a systemic impact on how we, as a society, provide access to justice for the poor.

As part of the 2015 Impact Challenge campaign:

  • We obtained endorsements from Danny Glover, the International Justice Mission, Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce), and Jeff Adachi (Public Defender of San Francisco)
  • Our partners at the Salvation Army and the University of San Francisco worked so hard to help get the word out.
  • Great volunteers helped canvass, develop new communications, and produce a new video
  • And so much more! Our staff worked over 80 hours per week during the challenge to get out the vote while keeping up our services.

To see all of the finalists, click here.

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.