Looking Back on the Birth of a PILnet Clearinghouse

New video showcases pro bono in Russia

27 January 2012

Until just a few years ago, pro bono was a foreign concept to many in Russia. But the access of NGOs to affordable legal services has became more critical as new registration requirements and complex tax regulations have made the legal environment for NGOs in Russia more challenging.

dima video 2011To address this rising need, in 2007 PILnet partnered with USAID, Hogan Lovells, White & Case, other law firms, and the American Bar Association to create what became PILnet’s Russia Pro Bono Clearinghouse in Moscow. Beginning with the involvement of just a few firms, the clearinghouse expanded quickly and is now one of the signature programs of PILnet’s Moscow office.

"Early on we saw that a pro bono clearinghouse might work in Moscow to help civil society groups that couldn't afford legal assitance," said Kimberly Reed, a PILnet board member then with Hogan in Moscow.

“In two or three years it all grew from about three or four law firms to about 20 international law firms and eight Russian law firms,” recalled PILnet’s director for Russia, Dmitry Shabelnikov, in a recent video interview with USAID. “Which I think is tremendous growth, and it continues to grow.”

The video focuses on Shabelnikov and Mikki Mahan from White & Case in Moscow discussing the early stages of what quickly became a successful partnership. “Everyone was ready," said Shabelnikov. "We could see that by the speed and pace by which it all quickly grew.” USAID's Global Development Alliance, which provided support for the Moscow Clearinghouse and other public-private partnerships, is marking its tenth anniversary.