Current Rule of Law Programs in Russia

Access to Justice and Human Rights

Since 2010, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative has implemented several programs aimed at increasing the safety of vulnerable populations in Russia by building the capacity of local lawyers to advocate for them. The programs are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and the British Embassy.

Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity

Beginning in 2006, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, has worked to combat corruption in Russia through innovative, bottom-up approaches that build anti-corruption momentum among professionals and young people at the local level.

Our current program focuses on increasing the anti-corruption awareness and compliance capacity of Russian legal professionals, officials, businesses, entrepreneurs and journalists. Along with a local partner, we helped create an Anti-Corruption Oversight Center where community members can register complaints about corruption, obtain guidance on potential legal methods for addressing the issue and connect with journalists who can investigate and publicize the matter. We created an innovative social media campaign, encouraging high-profile officials and businesses to take a public anti-bribery pledge. We also trained journalists on methods for exposing corruption in their regions. Additionally, we collaborated with municipal governments to develop and implement research-based anti-corruption strategies.

ABA ROLI advocates for corporate social responsibility by organizing events and assisting in the development of relevant programs and policies for Russian businesses. ABA ROLI cooperates with the Federal Chamber of Commerce and Industry to disseminate best practices and provide advice to Russian businesses on compliance with anti-corruption rules and standards.

Legal Education Reform & Civic Education

Many of Russia’s clinical legal education instructors have not been adequately trained in practical teaching methods. Consequently, most legal clinic students receive no practical skills trainings before they begin to provide free legal aid services. To address this gap, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) supports teaching and curriculum reform efforts by conducting legal skills schools. We work with legal clinic instructors from leading Moscow law schools—including Moscow State University, the Moscow State Academy of Law, the Russian Legal Academy and the All-Russian Academy of International Trade—to ensure that educators are properly trained on interactive, practical skills-focused teaching methodologies. We work to increase the educators’ knowledge of, and capacity to use, these methodologies and to develop effective, holistic course structures. We also work with interested law students, chosen through a rigorous application process, to improve their advocacy skills and knowledge of relevant aspects of human rights law. A central aim of this work is to create a cadre of leaders for the next generation of lawyers. These trainings, and subsequent trainings led by participating clinical instructors, teach the students how to establish ethical relationships with clients, how to employ their legal knowledge and advocacy skills to hold the state accountable and how to incorporate international standards into their arguments, thereby promoting a higher level of professional practice within the Russian court system. More than 300 law students and 50 clinical professors from throughout Russia, as well as from Belarus, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, have participated in these trainings.

Legal Profession Reform

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) partners with local organizations to build the capacity of Russia’s defense lawyers to promote fair criminal trial standards through targeted advocacy-skills trainings. These trainings highlight best practices in specialized areas of law and provide instruction on applying newly acquired knowledge in the courtroom. Designed in response to our partners’ needs, our training programs are implemented through collaboration with key organizations, including the Federal Bar Chamber and regional bar chambers.

Russian lawyers are required to complete 100 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) over five years to remain licensed. Yet Russia’s federal and nearly all regional bar chambers have no institutionalized CLE programs. ABA ROLI—in partnership with regional bar chambers and universities—supports the creation of regional CLE centers as well as the development of CLE courses for both new and experienced lawyers. We have so far conducted this activity in eight regions—Krasnoyarsk, St. Petersburg, Leningrad oblast, Stavropol, Vladimir, Kaluga, Tver and Ulyanovsk.

Moreover, ABA ROLI has trained a principal group of trainers on interactive skills, created CLE curricula, designed and implemented a sustainable business plan for each CLE center and helped each center conduct and supervise independent CLE trainings. We have trained hundreds of young lawyers on basic lawyering skills, including written and oral advocacy and ethics, and on specialized topics, such as representing victims of hate crimes. To date, the centers have trained more than 1,000 lawyers. After conducting training-of-trainers programs to develop the interactive training skills of a core group of professional educators, ABA ROLI works with each center’s staff to create a CLE curriculum, design and implement a sustainability business plan and supervise CLE instruction. Our 2013 training-of-trainers programs included seminars on case strategy, communication and trial skills, and interactive teaching methods. So far, the ABA ROLI-supported CLE centers have enrolled about two thousands lawyers.