Updated: Mar 26, 2022
As part of GEN's mission, we work with local entrepreneurs to provide financial support, education, and the amplification of their work and mission. One such entrepreneur is Nadezhda, who, for the last several years, has been providing pro-bono legal counsel to the women of Khakassia and Krasnoyarskiy Krai.
Nadezhda has been practicing law for more than twenty years and has established a reputation for philanthropy in the industry—in a country where the concept of pro-bono is not widely known, she accepts referrals from people all over the region. She deals with a range of issues—labor, finance, civil, land, and administrative law and regularly participates in civil, administrative and arbitration cases.
Even though Minusinsk is a small city, its population is very heterogeneous. Part of Nadezhda's practice provides legal assistance to entrepreneurs, among whom are many wealthy people. However, many other entrepreneurs are on the brink of survival and, due to limited financial resources, are unable to use expensive legal services. "Fortunately," says Nadezhda, "My mission is largely related to helping such people, because I understand how difficult it is to do business in small cities far from the capital."
Her legal activity has been mostly focused on the socially unprotected layers of society—individuals and families who do not have the opportunity to get professional legal assistance due to the lack of financial resources. "People are not rich," Nadezhda points to the local income data, showing that the average salary is barely above the federally mandated living wage, "There are a lot of single mothers with large families whose income is barely enough to support life, let alone pay a lawyer."
Nadezhda has also spent a lot of time helping families traverse the complex legal system, helping answer questions regarding how to receive social benefits and register a house, to issues related to adoption, land and other civil transactions. Unlike in the United States, Russia has a civil law system—legal code determines a majority of cases and judges rarely have the freedom to make subjective decisions.
Regardless, Nadezhda says that many of the life situations that her clients find themselves in are quite easy to solve. However, not seeing a way out, many people make wrong decisions and get into even more problems.
"This indicates a certain legal illiteracy of the population. I am trying to prevent the situation from getting worse and fix the initial problem."
Nadezhda has helped countless people begin to live fuller lives by helping them get jobs and arrange housing. This work does not bring a lot of money, but it’s much more important to see how people's lives are changing, "It is very important for me," she says.
Many believe that lawyers are a highly paid profession and then try their best to get into the best law schools, and then into the best legal offices and companies. However, hardly anyone expects to be working from 8 am to 10 pm in a small town, saving someone's life. Nadezhda is one of a kind, "I never really thought about the benefits of my work. I make enough to satisfy my needs. I wouldn't mind making more, of course," she laughs, "But it would require raising my fee, which goes against my mission to help people who can’t afford any help."
With the support of GEN, it has become easier for Nadezhda to overcome the challenges associated with her work. "The main difficulties in the activity are related to the fact that people do not always ask for help on time. There is a lack of elementary legal literacy, further reinforced by the complexity and confusion of the legal system and bureaucracy."
One of the difficulties she faces is the fundamental remoteness of her work. Nadezhda often travels to the districts (courts, government agencies) to meet with clients and submit documents. For example, the Arbitration Court is located in Krasnoyarsk, 450 km (280 miles) from Minusinsk, where she resides. She regularly finds herself traveling to Kyzyl, Irkutsk and other cities. Even more often, she travels to neighboring areas at a distance of about 100 km (60 miles) in one direction.
Recently, GEN provided Nadezhda's organization with a grant to purchase a new copy machine. "I spent a lot of time scanning and copying documents for courts and government agencies, the device was old, the sheets were processed one at a time, and a lot of time was spent on this. Now documents are processed many times faster, the quality and speed of work has increased!"
"I am very grateful to the foundation for its help; thanks to your participation, I can do more. I look forward to further cooperation. I sincerely wish for your success in the future!"
Thank you to all who make stories like this one possible!