Georgia has made significant progress in improving its justice system since declaring independence in 1991. The state-run legal aid provider, Georgia Legal Aid Service (LAS), established in 2007, has made great strides in building a substantial legal aid system that provides legal representation to poor and marginalized people across Georgia, handling almost 50% of all criminal cases. Close to 200 lawyers are employed by LAS and they represent more than 17,000 people each year. But the right to counsel is about more than just having a lawyer. To truly uphold the right to counsel and ensure equal access to justice, legal aid systems must ensure trained lawyers who can deliver high-quality, effective representation for each and every person in need.
In partnership with the East-West Management Institute and USAID, the ILF is working on the ground in Georgia to increase the quality of legal aid services across the country. Our project takes a two-tiered approach. At the individual-level, ILF experts are working side-by-side with Georgian lawyers, providing case-based mentorship to build capacity to provide legal representation that is proactive, client-centered, rights-based and challenges entrenched discrimination and systemic injustices. At the organizational level, the ILF is working with LAS to strengthen oversight and accountability. We are working with LAS leaders to establish training, mentoring, and supervision structures that will help ensure quality and accountability for the long haul, including setting performance standards that draw on the ILF’s landmark publication “Measuring Justice.” The ILF is currently mentoring lawyers serving in Tbilisi, Rustavi and Mtskheta.