Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A revolution in legal aid -- obligatory legal assistance bill in Israel

A new bill, under which the Israel Bar Association will be obligated to provide legal assistance to under-privileged populations, was approved by the Knesset in late November 2009.

Initiated by the President of the Israel Bar, Adv. Yori Geiron, and Knesset-Member, Yariv Levin, the new law made the current non-obligatory function of providing legal assistance to deprived populations, into an obligatory one. The bill gained the support of a large number of Knesset members, wanting to ensure that access to the justice system will be available to all people, regardless of their financial means.

This is an important precedent for the Israel Bar, as for the first time, it is the Bar itself which undertakes to provide legal services to the public, a project which is fully sponsored by the Bar.

It is important to note, however, that the new law does not require each lawyer to take on pro bono work, but it is an obligation of the Bar itself, through its volunteer lawyers.

The law will become effective over the next few months, once rules determining eligibility for such legal assistance by the Bar will be adopted.

President Yori Geiron: 'Practicing law is not just a profession, it is a social responsibility, and one of its missions is to increase access to the justice system, as a basic right. It is with this in mind, and after a continuing debate within the Bar, that the Bar was able to operate its pro bono program, "Schar Mitzva", for the past 7 years, providing legal assistance to under-privileged people across the country, with over 2,500 volunteer lawyers. This is an essential project, which provides legal assistance and full representation to thousands of people each year.'

Knesset-Member Yariv Levin: 'This bill is an important stage in the efforts to empower under-privileged populations and help many to break out of the circle of poverty. Using the legal advice provided to them, many people could fight for what they are legally entitled to and protect themselves, against suits filed against them. This way, those people will be able to break out of the circle of poverty. At the same time, this will prevent court decisions, obligating those people to pay enormous amounts, simply due to the fact that they were not represented in court, thereby, sending them back to the circle of poverty.'

Posted by Adv. Dikla Elkabets
Israel Bar Association

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the blog on Israel Bar Association beautiful initiative. It will be a good idea if Bar Associations can emulate same in their various jurisdictions.

    In Nigeria, Branches of the Nigerian Bar Association are required to open a pro bono centers in their Bar secretariats in order to provide free legal services to the citizens in their locality who can not afford the high cost of legal services. Volunteers are expected to work in this centers.

    However,Lawyers are now required to present evidence of handling two pro bono cases in the last year preceding the year of application as a condition for the conferment of prestigious title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN).

    It is my opinion that a law making pro bono obligatory for Bar associations like we now have in Israel will better institutionalize pro bono work among legal practitioners.

    I will appreciate if i can have access to the Israel Bar Association Law and the Rules so as to know if same can be replicated in my country.

    Meanwhile i give kudos to Israel Bar Association and her leadership.

    Thank you.

    Toyin B. Adegoke