By: Allan Dahl, Program Director, Georgia
Georgia has taken a major step forward, increasing access to justice across the country with the adoption of the ILF’s Measuring Justice framework. In November 2022, the Legal Aid Services of Georga (LAS), Georgia’s state-run legal aid provider, formally adopted Measuring Justice as their framework to ensure high-quality legal aid services across the country.
LAS handles 50% of all court proceedings in Georgia. Though the country has a substantial legal aid system, LAS recognized that in line with the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, the right to a lawyer means more than having a lawyer at trial. It requires skilled lawyers providing quality representation at all stages of the criminal justice process. LAS identified the need to develop a quality assurance program to ensure high quality legal representation and to evaluate the effectiveness of their work but did not have the framework to do so. That’s where we come in.
The ILF’s flagship publication Measuring Justice was created to contribute to an international consensus around best practices in defining and measuring quality in criminal legal aid services. Rooted in the ILF’s on-the ground experience providing legal aid services in diverse legal systems, Measuring Justice defines quality legal aid and provides a set of indicators to measure the quality of legal aid services.
Allan Dahl, ILF Program Director, Georgia pictured with staff of Legal Aid Services of Georgia’s Kutaisi office.
Over the past year, with support from East West Management Institute (EWMI) under USAID’s Georgia Rule of Law Program, the ILF has been on the ground in Georgia providing case-based mentorship to legal aid lawyers. Our mentorship has been informed by the principles set out in Measuring Justice. Not only have we seen increased success in case outcomes, but we have increased the capacity of Georgian lawyers by introducing innovative ways of formulating defense arguments, and in turn boosting the morale of the defenders.
“Every time the ILF mentor speaks with me about my cases I learn something new and feel inspired to fight harder for my clients”
– Sopo Chirgadze, Legal Aid Lawyer, Georgia LAS
Given the success we’ve seen, LAS decided to formally adopt Measuring Justice as the basis of their quality assurance program. They will also be establishing a formal internal mentoring program using the tools we’ve provided, setting the foundation for self-sufficiency long after our project ends. We expect that the LAS Evaluation Department will be able to more accurately measure the quality of services provided by lawyers by looking at case outcomes based on adherence to the principles set out in Measuring Justice and overall client satisfaction.
It’s safe to say our time in Georgia has been fruitful and we are energized to continue working with LAS to better protect the rights of people who are facing the legal system. We’re just getting started!