Center for Institutional Studies Research Seminar "Institutional reasons for pro bono work: A case study of Russian advocacy"
Anton Kazun - Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Industrial and Market Studies
In many countries, the community of advocates provides free legal assistance to poor people to grant them equal access to justice. Very little is known, however, about advocates’ motives for providing free legal assistance in countries without the developed professional community and developed institutions of the rule of law. There are two potential initiators of pro bono practices: the state and advocates’ organizations. Based on a survey of 3,317 advocates in 35 regions of Russia, we analyze the provision of two respective types of free legal services: participation in legal proceedings on assignment of the court and provision of "pro bono" legal assistance stimulated by the community itself. Work on the appointment of the court may be considered altruistic help because it is provided for poor people and offers scant remuneration from the state budget. Although one may expect that it attracts advocates willing to work pro bono, we show that weak institutions of the rule of law in Russia created the “adverse selection problem”, resulting in a generally low level of quality of professionals engaged in this work. Work on assignment of the court becomes a form of practice performed for economic reasons and usually involves advocates with low social capital and a lack of regular clients. In contrast, the survey shows that "pro bono" legal assistance encouraged by advocates’ organizations is generally provided by advocates with a high level of social capital and values aimed at high professional reputation and low level of orientation on benefit. We conclude that in developing countries with weak institutions, the provision of free legal services may be stimulated “from the bottom up” by the community rather than “top down” by the state. Advocates’ engagement in the professional community is the key precondition for pro bono work in Russia.
Working paper: download