Ukraine Pro Bono Collaborative named Pro Bono Initiative of the Year

Ukraine Pro Bono Collaborative named “Pro Bono Initiative of the Year”

Awards & rankings | 27 November 2023

The Ukraine Pro Bono Collaborative has won the award for “Pro Bono Initiative of the Year” at The Lawyer European Awards 2023. The Ukraine Pro Bono Collaborative (UPBC) is a joint pro bono project among the law firms Allen & Overy, Bird & Bird, Dentons, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and White & Case, and the NGO European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL).

Based in Warsaw, the project brings together Polish and Ukrainian pro bono lawyers to provide legal support to refugees arriving from Ukraine. 

The lawyers advise on a wide range of issues including: access to accommodation; children’s rights and guardianship; employment; setting up a business; social welfare; passports and IDs; residency permits; returning to Ukraine; and travel to other countries.

Those using the service have access to a pro bono lawyer from one of the six law firms in Warsaw and a phone service is in operation to manage inquiries for people located in other Polish cities. 

Over the past year, lawyers from the UPBC have provided more than 3,000 hours of free legal advice and have supported 5,695 people. 71% of those accessing legal advice were women seeking advice on behalf of their children.

Our Warsaw team included: Andrzej Dębiec, Agnieszka Szczodra-Hajduk, Dominika Górska, Ewa Kacperek, Anna Okoń, Mateusz Ożdżeński, Maria Różyło, and Bartłomiej Wyjatek. 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, almost 1 million refugees have fled to Poland. 

To fill the pressing need for free legal support for refugees, PILnet and UNHCR approached ELIL about establishing a pro bono project in view of ELIL’s extensive experience from having established a the first-ever collaborative pro bono project for refugees in Greece in 2019. 

The project is managed by the Polish lawyer, Dr Filip Czernicki, from the Institute of Public Affairs in Poland.