Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Medea was left homeless, Boris faced a jail sentence. Legal aid helped them to restore their lives when everything seemed lost. Lawyers and consultants, like Akaki and Tea, help thousands of vulnerable people in Georgia to find justice before the law.  

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Medea Mosulishvili, legal aid beneficiary

“The Legal Aid Service is where you go if you seek justice.”

I have been a journalist my whole life but now I am retired and socially disadvantaged. Being lonely and poor is just part of my troubles. My relatives used lies and threats on me to steal my apartment, where I have lived for 14 years, and left me homeless. I could not find justice either in district, or appeal courts. Finally, I decided to take advice of my friends and go the Legal Aid Service.

When I first entered their office, I saw a lot of people there seeking justice just like me. Some of them looked happy and I said to myself: “Will I ever feel as happy as they are?”

I spent two years with the professional consultants and lawyers of the Legal Aid Service, wonderful people who amazed me with their resolute and principal attitude, compassion and willingness to help. As a result of this great work, my apartment was returned to me.

I am grateful to the Legal Aid Service and its understanding and capable staff.

The Legal Aid Service is where you go if you seek justice.   

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Akaki Lomsadze, public attorney

 „Helping people is an intrinsic motivation. That very feeling made me a lawyer.”

I have been working for the Legal Aid Service since 2015. First as a consultant, now as lawyer on administrative and civil cases. Being a consultant was a rewarding experience. I managed to help several thousand people. As a lawyer, I have handled hundreds of cases. There are 90 current cases I am working on right now.

A case is successful if you manage to resolve all legal complications. An unsuccessful case is the one where you see a potential for success but fail to convince your client to fight to the end and appeal to the higher courts.

Trust is a cornerstone of our work. There is no ready-made recipe of gaining trust but, from my personal experience, your first communication with a beneficiary is most important. At the first meeting, we must clearly explain what to expect from our collaboration and what our mutual responsibilities are. This lays the ground to building trust between a lawyer and a beneficiary which grows stronger as we move forward. A successful resolution of the case is a great experience. It feels amazing to hear a judge say: Your claim is fully satisfied!  

I always try to make my communication with the beneficiaries as flexible as possible. I am available all the time, they can call me after office hours and that does not feel like a burden at all. We often meet in my office at the Legal Aid Service, but I can visit them at home too, if needed.

Online consultations are becoming a common practice these days, and this makes access to legal aid even easier than before – no need to leave home, commute to the Legal Aid Service and then spend a long time in a queue. It feels good that we make our services even more comfortable to our clients.

Helping people is an intrinsic motivation and that very feeling made me a lawyer. The Constitution of Georgia and international legal documents state that no one shall be deprived of the right to justice and legal defence, especially those who cannot afford legal services because of poverty and other social or economic reasons. Legal aid is filling up this gap by providing services to most vulnerable and disadvantaged. I am proud that my work contributes to this positive process.

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Boris Leladze, legal aid beneficiary

“Lawyers of the Legal Aid Service are the true soldiers of justice”

Born in 1953, I spent my whole life in my home village Sazano, in Zestaponi region of Georgia. I am a qualified electrician and worked hard for the benefit of my community and country. For now, I have a status of socially vulnerable. My only wealth is my family — my wife, three children and six grandchildren.

13 November 2016 has changed my life forever. We had a visitor in the village who came to see his relatives. We knew him before as an aggressive person who was always looking for trouble. That time too he argued with several villagers and that ended with a fight. The situation was resolved by the end of the day and everything settled down. Later in the evening, when I was heading home, he suddenly leaped out from the dark and attacked me. My life was in danger and I fought back. After that I went to the police and handed myself in. My attacker was wounded but alive. What I did was a self-defence, but the law-enforcers pleaded me guilty anyway. I was facing a six-year jail sentence and felt desperate.

As a socially vulnerable, I could apply for legal aid and so I did seeking help of a public attorney. At the very first meeting with my lawyer, I felt a sparkle of hope. I saw that the legal aid service would really defend my case. My lawyer indeed fought hard for over a year to restore justice.

In February 2018, the court fully satisfied our claim and cleared me of all charges. I can hardly remember what the judge actually said. I was so overwhelmed that almost fainted.

Now I can say that lawyers of the Legal Aid Service are the true soldiers of justice. If you need help, go to the Legal Aid Service.

Photo: Nino Zedginidze/UNDP

Tea Kaulashvili, public attorney

“A sound system of legal aid is equally important for Georgia as a sound system of healthcare.”

I have a degree in law from Tbilisi Institute of Law & Psychology (2003). Six years with the Legal Aid Service is my longest practice as a lawyer. Legal aid is in high demand in Georgia. Usually, I have 100 and more running cases at a time.

Some of the cases are emotionally challenging as well as legally complicated. One of those is a case of a teenage boy whose family was killed in his home country. A family friend helped him run away by forging his age in the passport so that he could cross the border. Once in Georgia, the boy applied for a legal status but failed to succeed for three years. Courts did not seem sympathetic to his case. He was losing hope for a normal life ever again. In 2016, he applied for help to the Legal Aid Service. We took the case and – I am proud to say! – won it. He is no longer a stateless person, lonely and desperate. He is safe now and can rebuild his life in Georgia. That happened because of our help.

It is crucial to gain trust of your beneficiaries. Only then can you get a complete and reliable information about their cases and come up with a winning strategy. People who seek legal aid are often worried, depressed, desperate or scared, especially when they face family disputes or domestic violence. Lawyers and consultants must be also skilled in psychology to discuss those painful matters openly and frankly. Such openness lays the ground for a successful collaboration between a lawyer and a beneficiary.

I recall a case of a displaced person who was also a war veteran. Our first meeting totally failed as he was intimidating and aggressive. His claims sounded unrealistic too. My only chance as his attorney was to convince him to change his mind and take a different course of action. I asked him to give me one more opportunity and meet again. He did so, and this worked out perfectly. As we moved forward with his case, he agreed with my reasoning and together we managed to win.

There are a lot of vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Georgia and this makes legal aid more critical than ever. A sound system of legal aid is equally important for Georgia as a sound system of healthcare.

Georgia has survived the collapse of Soviet Union and first challenging steps towards market economy. Now we are building a society that is based on the respect for human rights. The Legal Aid Service has an essential role in this process.

Someday, I would love to see Georgia where legal aid is not needed any more, where there are no more poor and disadvantaged people. But for now, our beneficiaries need our help, and we are ready to give it.

The Legal Aid Service is the largest state provider of legal assistance in Georgia accountable to the country’s parliament. Its nation-wide presence with 12 bureaus and 7 consultation centres across Georgia allows the Legal Aid Service to assist over 30,000 people every year. Since the establishment of the Legal Aid Service in 2007, its rapid rollout was supported by a number of international agencies, including the European Union, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Council of Europe and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

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