A private non-profit law firm, Legal Aid has provided legal services to low-income families, seniors, adults and children with disabilities, and domestic violence survivors since 1959. Through our programs and our advocacy work, we have helped hundreds of thousands through the years. Here is a look back at the milestones that have made Legal Aid the valuable community resource it is today.


Legal Aid is founded by members of San Mateo County Bar Association and the San Mateo County Superior Court to provide free civil legal services to low-income residents of San Mateo county who are particularly vulnerable due to age, disability, language or family violence.

Core legal services offered are housing for tenants, administrative law for those in need of safety-net services and family law for survirvors of domestic violence.

Attorney Jim Sparks is hired to work one day a week for $100 a month and pro bono volunteers take cases.



Attorney Ike Goodman joins Legal Aid staff as the organizations's second staff member.

San Mateo County Neighborhood Councils, organizations mainly comprised of low income residents, launch a probe into illegal racial bias in housing. Legal Aid attorneys use the information to take instances of discrimination to court.

Legal Aid fights for students’ civil rights and defends a student who was denied admission to the College of San Mateo because he was a leader in campus protests.



Legal Aid sues to end racial discrimination in daycare facilities on behalf of a Redwood City resident whose three black children were refused placement in their local daycare center and placed instead in the home of a black family. The court ruled that discrimination must stop in the program, and state officials must produce a regulation banning such discrimination in all child daycare centers.

With the help of Legal Aid, a group of low-income women attending San Mateo Community Colleges sues the district for refusing to provide childcare centers at the colleges. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and raised awareness of the issue in higher education circles.

Peter Reid starts as a staff attorney. He retires in 2002 as Executive Director.



Legal Aid files suit against a grower in Pescadero for not paying farmworkers minimum wage and overtime pay and forcing employees to live in makeshift housing. A $28,000 settlement was awarded, and fair labor laws in the United States were proven to apply equally to all workers regardless of their legal status.

M. Stacey Hawver starts as a staff attorney, becoming Executive Director in 2002. She remains the Executive Director today. 


2000s to Present

The Natalie Lanam Justice Center at Legal Aid’s offices in Redwood City is dedicated in honor of longtime volunteer and friend of Legal Aid, Natalie Lanam. The Center stands as a symbol of our commitment to justice for all the children, families and seniors in our community.