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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Human Service Organizations, Human Services

Mission: The mission of the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County is to fight social injustice through civil legal advocacy for people living in poverty. The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County’s vision is for every person to have the basic necessities of life, including safe affordable housing, access to health care, economic security, secure immigration status, an appropriate education and freedom from violence and abuse. We strive to empower people to overcome the causes and effects of poverty so they can participate in their community with dignity and respect. We seek to remove barriers related to poverty, disability, race, language, age, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status through community education, legal representation, systemic advocacy and collaboration with community partners.

Results: Since our founding hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and low income families have been able to stay in affordable homes and/or overcome food insecurity; children have been able to access health care coverage and medical care; adult, teen and senior survivors of domestic violence and elder abuse have been able to stabilize their lives and live in safety.

Target demographics: fight social injustice for people living in poverty

Direct beneficiaries per year: 2222 cases opened from 7/1/2017-6/30/2018

Geographic areas served: San Mateo County

Programs: legal advice, representation and education

Community Stories

78 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Advisor

Rating: 5

As an attorney in San Mateo County, it has been my honor andpleasure to serve the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. There are many members of our community who are in great need of legal assistance. The Legal Aid Society steps in to provide that representation when there is no one else. If our society is to survive and thrive, individuals accross the economic specturm must be able to access the institutions and processes that provide for peaceful resolution of disputes and for fair and orderly recognition of rights and duties. The Legal Aid Society is there to ensure the syetem is accessible to those individuals who would otherwise go without guidance and/or representation.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've worked as a volunteer for Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and have been impressed by the dedicated work its staff does for low-income people with legal issues. The disparities in wealth in our county are clear, and Legal Aid does its part to fight for those who may not have the resources to fight for themselves.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I came across Legal Aid in San Mateo County as I looked for an agency that was working on national issues but on a local level. The staff is embarrassingly effusive in giving thanks for the smallest assistance. I am particularly drawn to the immigration issue but the agency does important work (and not just legal) for people living in poverty in my home county. The tagline says it all for me, "Fighting social injustice through civil legal advocacy for people living in poverty."

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I worked at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County for over two years, contributing to the direction of the LIBRE project and LASSMC's health justice work on behalf of immigrant families. The commitment and drive of the team at LASSMC is without parallel. This is a community of advocates who truly care about the residents of San Mateo County and commit to their work 100%. It was an honor to stand beside them.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working with Legal Aid was a pleasure. They helped with our extremely complex case and provided mentorship and resources. We were attorneys not experienced in that kind of case, but working with Legal Aid made it easy!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo provides nothing but welcoming and informative services by people who care. Everyone I encountered at this firm was committed to public service and making a difference. People here really care about their clients and do their best to uplift the community.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It's one of the great pleasures and honors of my career to have the ability to work with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County on guardianship cases for at-risk children.

1 Hien L.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My first experience with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County was amazing. I had the opportunity to provide legal services to a victim of domestic violence who was seeking to leave a verbally and physically abusive relationship with the father of her 11 month old child.

Many DV victims are financially dependent on their abusers and this case was no exception. It is very common for DV victims to feel powerless, overwhelmed, and unsure about whether or not they should pursue a restraining order and child support. Unsurprisingly, victims may have a change of heart, which was the case with my client. When my client informed me that she was unsure about moving forward with the restraining order, I assured her that she was in control and that I would advocate for any decision she wished. We sat down and discussed her options and she eventually gained the confidence to move forward with the restraining order hearing. After receiving the order, she explained she was glad she followed through with the process and attained the end result she was hoping for.

My client obtained a 3 year restraining order and $1400 in monthly child support. She was extremely happy with the results, which far exceeded her expectations!

To be able to help someone through the daunting process of dealing with the family court system was extremely fulfilling. I felt like I made a big difference in someone's (and her child's) life. Being able to help others was one of the reasons I pursued a career in law and I look forward to working with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County again in the future!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

San Mateo Legal Aid is a wonderful, and truly indispensable, nonprofit for the Bay Area. I am an attorney and have worked on pro bono matters referred to me through San Mateo Legal Aid. The people at Legal Aid are extremely knowledgeable, very helpful, and most importantly, truly care about the clients and community they serve.

San Mateo Legal Aid is particularly special because they not only fill a critical and under-served need in the community, they also make their low-income clients and pro bono attorney partners feel fully supported. Legal Aid is a place that low-income clients can turn to without fear for legal advice they could not otherwise receive. And Legal Aid provides fantastic support and guidance to the pro bono attorneys in the community to whom they refer matters.

San Mateo Legal Aid has my highest recommendation.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked with San Mateo legal aid for many years assisting with their healthcare clinics for seniors and the disabled. The system for providing healthcare to these populations is frustrating and difficult to navigate. Legal Aid is wonderful and helps educate us to volunteer and improve these people's lives in dealing with this system. We hear difficult stories of the system and are touched when we are able to help make the system work better. As a volunteer, it is so rewarding to make a difference thanks to Legal Aid!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I really enjoy helping with the Share of cost clinic with Legal Aid. They've pre-screened and otherwise structured the clinic very well and provide great support, and it's one of the few pro bono programs where one can usually solve the clients' problems within a single session (which is of course very rewarding for us volunteers).

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Share of Costs clinic is a very good program. They provide good training materials, and excellent backup help is always available during the clinic.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been involved in the Legal Aid Share-of-Cost clinics for many years. They are one of the most rewarding pro bono activities I do because I get a chance to sit down and talk directly with seniors and disabled adults about helping them get the medical insurance coverage they need. And I get hear some amazing stories from them – they often make me laugh, and they are always so relieved and thankful for any advice I can give.

Comments ( 1 )

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jcrenteria 08/17/2018

Thank you so much!!!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My experience as a volunteer has been wonderful. Everyone I've met at Legal Aid is kind, welcoming, and has a fierce passion for their mission. Every event I've volunteered at has been run very smoothly and timely. They are a great group of people to work with.

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County (Legal Aid) is one of the finest and most beneficial community organizations of which I have been associated. Over 3 years ago, I volunteered at one of Legal Aid's Housing Clinic in Redwood City. Many people know of Legal Aid, its lawyers and volunteers. They trust Legal Aid not just because it is free to the masses that come for help, some, in a last ditch effort to avoid an unlawful eviction. They trust Legal Aid because they know paid staff or not, sound legal advice and critical help and guidance will be found at the clinic. For many who cannot afford a private attorney to help them defend themselves, Legal Aid is a means to level the playing field and find a way to win. I am so proud to be a volunteer; it is good work and every single lawyer who has a few hours a week to spare (or not) should make time to give back to community and to the law by giving of themselves and the causes so well represented by Legal Aid

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Legal Aid is a godsend for San Mateo County. Most of my clients at North East Medical Services in Daly City live in poverty. They are also one of the most vulnerable populations who often need legal help. Without Legal Aid Society, they would not have the ability to fight social injustice such as income, housing, education, and gender inequalities. In addition, workers at Legal Aid Society are professional and diligent people who care about their clients. We need more nonprofits like that! Thank you!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had a great with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. It was my first time volunteering at the housing clinic, and I was able to jump right in with a more experienced attorney and begin conducting client interviews. The training materials provided me with a number of ways to address client questions. For any questions that we were stuck on, the supervisor was available on site for us to ask for help. Overall, a tremendously rewarding experience that touches on many different areas of law.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've worked with Legal Aid on a number of domestic violence restraining order applications and they have an amazing team! The work they do on behalf of the community is very important and ensures that cost is not a barrier to legal representation for those who need it the most. I would highly recommend to other attorneys interested in developing a pro bono practice to work with this organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am an attorney who volunteered to do some pro bono work I found through the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. It was a great experience! The staff there was very supportive and well-organized. They provided me with all the help I needed to win a great result for our client in a tricky guardianship matter, even though the case was outside my normal practice area. I look forward to working with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County again in the future!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My involvement as a volunteer at the Legal Aid Society's housing clinic has been rewarding - both in terms of hands-on experience and the satisfaction of making a difference. A really friendly bunch of people who are easy to work with.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County has made it so easy for me to help out people who are in real distress. They help the most vulnerable in our society. I've volunteered with them many times to represent victims of domestic violence in court so they can get a restraining order against the perpetrators. Without the Legal Aid Society, these folks would be left on their own to deal with a confusing and overwhelming situation. The Legal Aid Society has saved so many lives over the years. I can't think of a better organization to volunteer for.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo staff are very responsive to the needs of our community. Their staff are very talented in ensuring people (children, adults, seniors) receive the benefits they are entitled to. I have worked with them to ensure children receive the medical care, educational and transportation services they need. They help advocate for safe, affordable housing. They recruit and train pro-bono attorneys who are amazing as well. I appreciate the passion of the staff and pro-bono attorneys to serve our community, thereby, creating brighter futures for many people.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I believe that LASSMC is the premier legal services organization providing representation for disadvantaged residents of the county. As a practicing attorney for the last 16 years in the county, I have been involved in numerous pro bono cases, and my law firm supports a number of legal non-profits in the area. LASSMC stands out as a highly-focused, well-managed, and powerfully effective pro bono organization. Its attorneys possess credentials and experience that would rank them among the most elite in the private sector, yet they devote themselves to the pursuit of public, rather than private, good. Its superstar attorneys are backed by top-notch executive management with deep experience and decades of proven effectiveness. The organization has developed and successfully maintained broad and deep support within the local legal community and related fields. By virtue of these many strengths, LASSMC continues year after year to expand its track record of expanding access to justice among all of our neighbors in San Mateo County. Its mission yields practical results, and improved lives, for its many needy clients.

Donor

Rating: 5

I participated in the Legal Aid Golf Classic in June and had an amazing time. It was well organized, great course, great food, great prizes, and the staff were very appreciative. I was fortunate enough to be able to play golf while also raise money for this great organization that really makes a difference. Hope to see more out there on the golf course next year!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I'm proud to be on the board of LASSMC. They have a fantastic staff and do terrific work in the community.

Previous Stories

Donor

Rating: 5

I am thrilled to support San Mateo Legal Aid for the terrific work they do to help families in our community obtain the health care and other services to which they are entitled, and protect them from eviction or unsafe living conditions.

Former staff

Rating: 5

The Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County ("LASSMC") is a crucial player in the multitude of systems that affect individual's legal rights- be it housing, health care, disability, social security, immigration, or the courts, providing no cost representation and advice to those who might not otherwise have the ability to access such information. As an organization, they help the most vulnerable populations in San Mateo county, but as individuals they do so with a heartfelt passion that creates a safe, caring, and compassionate environment for those populations to truly feel empowered. LASSMC fights for systemic change through policy work (local, state, and nationally) and community involvement, allowing their efforts to have far wider consequences than just helping those that come to their door. Without LASSMC, each year thousands would never have their voices heard.

Every volunteer joins a supportive and knowledgeable team, and every amount of assistance, regardless of size, is supporting and working for those in the community in need of dire assistance. Please consider volunteering or donating today! Be the change.

Donor

Rating: 5

In the legal field, the plight of the most disadvantaged among us has perhaps never been so in focus. Laws are constantly being passed to help protect those most at risk-- children, elderly, low income -- yet the cost to access our legal system to protect those rights has never been greater. The San Mateo Legal Aid Society serves an increasingly important role in helping those who need it most understand and assert their rights. They do an outstanding job of reaching out to the legal community to garner its involvement in providing needed access to legal representation. A very worthy nonprofit that serves the community well and deserves broad support.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Legal Aid of San Mateo County is an amazing organization. I have worked with them for the past 3 years as a pro bono attorney and the experience has been one of the most rewarding of my life.

Prior to working with Legal Aid I had very little courtroom experience and my job as a corporate counsel was in stark contrast to the work at Legal Aid. Legal Aid provided mentoring and training so that I could advocate for survivors of domestic violence in court. The work has become a passion of mine and gives me the opportunity to empower survivors to find a safe environment free of violence.

The staff at Legal Aid are tremendous and really great to work with. They are some of my biggest supporters and have even nominated me for a pro bono award with the California Bar. I can't imagine another organization working so hard for it's clients and volunteers. They are truly amazing!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SMLA has terrific training materials and is there to advise its volunteers along the way. They are excellent advisors and make sure that they have services available to the community. They care deeply about their clients.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have the extreme honor and privilege of working with Legal Aid of San Mateo County. I was lucky to run into Pro Bono Director Janet Seldon at a local bar association function and begin working with this group.

The efficiency of the organization is incredible. The commitment, both personally and professionally, of every single staff member of LAS of SMC is inspiring. I started my career wanting only to be a prosecutor, thinking that was the best way to help the aggrieved and vulnerable members of society. I was wrong. I learned after some time prosecuting, that working for the government limited my ability to interact with clients and help effectuate meaningful change. I worked in family law for nearly two years before connecting with Janet. My life has not been the same since starting to work with this group of exceptional humans.

Legal Aid of San Mateo County offers the support and advocacy needed by the most underrepresented persons in our community. While having a discussion with Marci, Janet and a fellow volunteer, we talked about the victims of domestic violence as being those who "have the least and need the most." Violence in one's home is one of the scariest situations a person can be in. Their partner typically controls their finances, their immigration status, they monitor their actions, communications and often isolate their spouse from the community. Those who find the courage to leave and find their way to Legal Aid of San Mateo County know they have found a safe place to help them escape the cycle of violence.

Part of the joy I get from my volunteer work with Legal Aid of San Mateo County is my relationships with the staff. I love meeting clients at the Legal Aid Office. I always arrive before or stay after a client meeting so I can spend time speaking with the team members. It is always an honor and I am humbled by the privilege of working with this organization. In the area of Family Law, especially working with domestic violence victims and their families, one can lose faith in humanity rapidly. The success stories from clients and the integrity and compassion of the team renew my faith in the innate goodness of people who care for others in their community.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County is a great nonprofit. They really try to help make the community better. Every individual that I have interacted with at Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County has been wonderful and committed to its cause. I am proud to have been pro-bono counsel for clients they identified and to have done a small part to further their mission.

Michele124

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've worked with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County over the past 5 years. Through my firm's relationship with Legal Aid Society, I've been able to take on interesting cases that gave me experience that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten. The attorneys at Legal Aid Society have been really helpful to me in navigating the legal claims I've looked into and are so committed to helping out the community. Whether through their community outreach, interfacing with private attorneys or events, Legal Aid Society has provided so much value to the community here and I'm very proud to be able to be part of that.

Client Served

Rating: 5

SM Legal Aid was instrumental in assisting my mother with a Landlord/Tenant issue. They helped her understand her rights and advocate for herself. They are leaders and zealous advocates.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm a real estate atty in San Mateo Co. Their staff does a great job in protecting the rights of elderly and low income tenants without infringing on the rights of the many individual landlords with small rental properties in the area.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County is amazing and dedicated to helping so many people in our area. The attorneys and staff of Legal Aid work tirelessly to provide opportunities for those in the community to have access to justice and quality legal services. I know this firsthand, since I worked as volunteer attorney for Legal Aid, and have continued to volunteer over the years.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I worked for Legal Aid for a little less than one year, but it left a lasting impression on me. Even when I moved to another organization, I have continued to volunteer with Legal Aid. I participate in the Share of Cost clinics and am a volunteer for the annual Golf Tournament. The organization works tirelessly for the residents of San Mateo County. The Share of Cost clinics, which I volunteer for, provide an opportunity to help as many individuals as possible on one afternoon. The clinics bring in individuals who are having problems with their Medi-Cal. Since all of the individuals served at these clinics are elderly, disabled, or both, if they are without Medi-Cal, that can be a death sentence. I have learned that even a small amount of time and assistance from my end can have a dramatic impact on someone's life. The clinics are a very effective vehicle for educating individuals about issues with their Medi-Cal and how to resolve problems on their own, when possible. Legal Aid always assists the individuals fully, and takes many cases per year in an effort to make sure that no one in the county goes without their basic needs (this includes the services provided in the housing clinic and other departments within Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County).

Working as a volunteer for Legal Aid provides an opportunity to give back and make a difference. The organization is filled with lawyers who work for the good of individuals who desperately need assistance.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This outstanding organization provides critical, life changing legal services to those who are in real need. Bravo.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

LAS of San Mateo County provides critical legal services to the most vulnerable members of our community who otherwise could not afford or access these resources. LAS's exceptional services start with its staff and attorneys, who are caring, committed, and knowledgeable. They constantly go the extra mile without expecting anything in return. Personally and professionally, it is inspirational to see such selflessness and dedication. I can't say enough about the people that make this organization run.