About Us

10 January 2011

Justice needs advocates.

Law can deliver justice and protect rights, but it does not happen automatically. The law needs advocates to see that its promise is fulfilled. That’s why PILnet is building a global network to activate, empower, and connect those who use legal tools in the public interest.


PILnet envisions a world where the rule of law delivers justice and protects human rights. PILnet collaborates with local partners around the globe to develop the legal landscape essential to rights-respecting societies. It provides lawyers with the tools they need to challenge injustice, strengthens the ability of citizens to shape law and policy, and connects a global community of activist lawyers who are using law to advance change.


PILnet was created after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were re-inventing themselves. At that time, the law was seen by many as a means of state control rather than an instrument for the common good. With seed funding from the Ford Foundation, PILnet was established in 1997 as the Public Interest Law Initiative in Transitional Societies at Columbia University (PILI) to promote the use of law as a tool to serve the interests of the whole of society rather than those of a powerful few.

In 2002, PILnet established an office in Budapest, Hungary, from which it coordinated efforts across Central and Eastern Europe. Subsequently, PILnet set up offices in Russia (2004) and China (2008) to address the on-the-ground needs of its International Fellows and to apply its unique approach to activating, empowering, and connecting those who use legal tools in the public interest.

In 2007, PILnet became an independent non-profit organization (then the Public Interest Law Institute) and established a New York office; PILnet adopted its current name in 2011 to better reflect its strategy of bringing together global networks devoted to delivering justice and protecting rights.