Pro Bono – 2017: new mission, new ways, new approaches24.07.2017
There is should be mentioned that Кyiv International Pro Bono Meeting 2017 took place on 19-20 of July. That was the first for the longest time meeting of the partners of Pro Bono Space – non-governmental organizations and initiatives, representatives of law firms, attorneys and lawyers, and invited foreign experts – long-standing partners of Ukrainian Pro Bono movement.
What is the mission and the main goal of Ukrainian Pro Bono Space activity? How can the Space support non-governmental organizations and initiatives? What cases the partners (law firms, attorneys and lawyers, which have individual practice) are willing to deal with and what types of legal aid are they ready to provide? Does it worth to deal with individual cases and on what terms? All these questions become a cornerstone for series of meetings with law firms and non-governmental organizations – the partners of Pro Bono Space. The mutual roundtable for all participants of the Space also had place on 20 of July.
The two-day program of meetings was hold with participation of the following law firms: “DLA Piper”, “Marchenko Danevych”, “Juscutum Attorneys Association”, “Lavrynovych & Partners”, leaders of the Ukrainian National Bar Association, “Legal Development Network”, “Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union”, Ukrainian Legal Clinics Association. The below mentioned non-governmental organizations were presented as well: “Media Initiative for Human Rights”, “Human Rights Vector”, “Women Consortia of Ukraine”, “Ukraine Without Tortures”, a long-standing partner of Pro Bono Space Yevheniya Kovalenko (attorney), and allies of Ukrainian Pro Bono movement from the Global Network for Public Interest Law (PILnet) – Dmitrii Shabelnikov (the director of Moscow office) and Tamas Barabas (the senior lawyer of Budapest office).
The Pro Bono Space has been receiving requests from the individuals since the moment of its creation in 2013. That was a common thing when individual clients had no social significance and potential of social changes. Such approach was explained for that period of time by the complicated access to free legal aid. The situation changed in 2016 when the State started to guarantee free legal aid to vulnerable populations, and since the networks of non-governmental institutions of legal aid were providing such support. Thus, worthwhileness of doubling these functions by Pro Bono Space became doubtful.
A number of additional dilemmas were discovered during joint discussion of this problem with all parties of the process – non-governmental organizations and providers of legal aid. For example, has the Pro Bono Space to take up the cases from the service non-governmental organization, which are not individual clients, but if the case, referred by it, expects support to the concrete individual? Has the Pro Bono Space to consider individual cases without social significance, if those cases can’t receive free legal aid from the relevant state centers?
The result of discussion is the endorsement by the participants of the idea of priority acceptance of the requests from joint applicants (non-governmental organizations and nonregistered social initiatives) by the Pro Bono Space. It says that the cases should have social proof and contain the potential for social changes, cases, which could change system rules of “the game” in the particular sphere (among other things – in the practice of enforceability or interpreting of the law). At the same time, the basic principles of the Space operation stay permanent: we do not accept cases, which contain commercial interest of the applicant.
The problem of dealing with individual cases was considered within the framework of “division of labor” between law firms and private associates. It should be mentioned that the representatives of law firms spoke the word to provide legal aid under collective cases on a more frequent basis, but private associates and lawyers are more willing to work with individuals. Such approach contains an additional advantage according to the opinion of the head of PILnet’s Russian office Dmitrii Shabelnikov and active partner of the Pro Bono Space, associate Yevheniya Kovalenko. They say such approach will allow private associates to provide legal aid to civilians or small initiative groups under their disputes with state institutions or business-organizations. It is important result of discussion as far as large law firms, which stand for that particular state institutions and corporations, frequently in no condition to deal with alike cases under Pro Bono conditions as of the risk arising of direct or indirect conflict of interest.
The next important result of the meeting is articulation of law firm’s expectations from the Pro Bono Space activity, which could help the Space to aid non-governmental organizations and initiatives. In spite of the fact that every firm is specialized in dealing with one or another matters, and providing of specific types of legal aid, the members of the roundtable, representatives of law firms “DLA Piper” (Maryna Opirska) and “Marchenko Danevych” (Mykola Yurlov and Anastasiia Filipiuk) mentioned next thing. Law firms are ready to provide any types of legal aid. The range of services could contain as consulting as litigation support for lay client, if the case is socially important and has potential for successful judgment.
As the conclusion of the joint discussion, the director of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation Mykola Sioma has mentioned that cooperation with the Space is strategically useful for law firms and attorneys not only all along of the possibility to display social activity and recommend oneself in a good manner on the market of legal services, but also for estimation of new potential employees.
The participants of the roundtable concluded on the necessity of stronger cooperation of the representatives of legal service business and human rights defenders. The members of the meeting have shared objective to develop civil society, but they know not enough about the work of each other.