In the face of displacement challenges stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, lawyers, NGOs, and individuals with personal experiences of displacement have come together in an unprecedented display of unity. Powerful collaborations within the legal community emerged to address legal needs that sought to maximize resources and impact, including by drawing on the diversity of expertise and perspectives of lawyers from Ukraine.

“The diversity of actors, the breadth of collaboration, and the involvement of lawyers with lived experience of displacement increased the effectiveness of the legal community’s response to displacement from Ukraine.”

Anna Kalinichenko, Senior Pro Bono Associate, DLA Piper

In the most recent publication of Oxford University’s Forced Migration Review, PILnet’s Global Coordinator – Forced Displacement, teamed up with Anna Kalinichenko, Senior Pro Bono Associate, DLA Piper and Phil Worthington from the European Lawyers in Lesvos. Together they emphasized  the critical role that diverse stakeholders play in addressing legal needs and to share lessons from their experiences engaging the legal community in their response to Ukraine.Their article, titled “Pro bono collaboration within the legal community’s response to displacement from Ukraine” is featured in FMR72 – Ukraine: Insights and implications.

In recent years, many law firms have made refugee rights pro bono a central focus; with a 42% increase since 2014 in firms prioritizing immigration, refugees, and asylum in their pro bono initiatives. With this growth, has also come a shift towards direct legal support for refugees. One notable example highlighted in their article is the Ukraine Pro Bono Collaborative (the UPBC), which brings together Polish and Ukrainian lawyers, to provide direct assistance to those fleeing Ukraine. UPBC has provided legal support to over 2,250 individuals, showcasing the invaluable nature of collaboration in addressing legal queries and navigating complex legal procedures. 

The UPBC and the other combined endeavors highlighted in the article, stand as models for future responses. Lessons from these initiatives highlight the need for ongoing collaboration between diverse stakeholders, the development of replicable and flexible models that can be swiftly deployed in crises, and tailoring responses to the local context.