The Program enables the implementation of Section 3(2) of the Israel Bar Association Law, which stipulates that "The Bar Association is entitled, inter alia, to provide legal aid to those of limited means". Indeed, the objective of the program is to increase accessibility to the legal system, and to protect the rights of those who lack the means to hire professional legal services.
"Our professionalism includes social responsibility, caring for others, caring for the principles of a proper society and for the accessibility of law to any person, especially if he is weak, different or other. From behind these social glasses, we will eventually find ourselves better lawyers, better jurists and better people".
Yori Geiron, Esq.
President of the
"Just as a chain is as strong as its weakest link, a society is strong to the extent of its weakest people. There is no resurrection for a society without the rule of law, and there is no existence to a human being in a society without protecting the law. Statues are insufficient. Legal rights must be accessible to all. Lawyers must implement this accessibility. That is our destiny".
Yigal Arnon, Esq.
Founder of the
Pro Bono Program
"Schar Mitzva", the Israel Bar Association pro bono program, was established in 2002. The Program's mission is to substantially expand accessibility to the justice system and provide legal aid to those who cannot afford to pay for legal services. For the past 6 years, the Program is the social flag project of the Israel Bar Association (IBA), which is zealously working to further develop the Program.
The Program enables the implementation of Section 3(2) of the Israel Bar Association Law, which stipulates that “The Bar Association is entitled, inter alia, to provide legal aid to those of limited means”. Indeed, the objective of the Program is to increase accessibility to the legal system, and to protect the rights of those who lack the means to hire professional legal services.
The Program covers a wide-range of non-criminal legal issues, such as: Family law, bankruptcy, employment law, housing, civil disputes, banking, social security, etc. The Program's criteria are flexible. Each case is examined on its merits. On occasions, individuals who do not meet the Program's criteria or whose legal issues are not covered by the Program may still be included.
Legal Aid Centers
The Program operates 43 legal aid centers across the country. These centers provide free legal advice by professional certified attorneys to under-privileged populations, assisted by law students. There are no strict eligibility criteria one must meet before meeting the Program's volunteers at the centers. Such criteria are only significant if a volunteer lawyer is to be appointed to litigate the case, as explained below.
The Program provides pro bono legal representation to people who meet certain economic criteria, as determined by the IBA.
The Program's criteria relates to the legal aid services provided by the Ministry of Justice. The Legal Aid Bureau of the Ministry of Justice provides legal representation to those of very limited means, in accordance with the criteria laid down in the 1973 Legal Aid Regulations, and as such, they are inflexible by nature. The eligibility criteria for legal aid by the IBA, on the other hand, enable some flexibility.
In order to maximize the extent of legal aid available, the criteria determined by the IBA are supplementary to those of the Ministry of Justice. The IBA Program assists with cases which do not fall within the Ministry of Justice's criteria.
Accordingly, if an individual who has applied to the IBA legal aid centers meets the requirements for state legal aid, the volunteer lawyer at the legal aid center will help him complete the Legal Aid Bureau’s application form, and will refer him to the local offices of the Legal Aid Bureau.
Urgent motions to extend deadlines for the submission of court documents, stays of proceedings and restraining orders, are prepared by volunteers on call at the legal aid centers. The case is transferred simultaneously to the regional coordinator or to the local offices of the Legal Aid Bureau, as applicable.
Applications for legal representation are transferred from the legal aid centers and/or other sources to regional coordinators who bring the applications before a District Committee. The District Committee examines the eligibility under the criteria determined by the IBA. Once the committee has determined that the applicant is eligible for voluntary legal representation, the regional coordinator locates a lawyer who agreed to take the case and represent the applicant pro bono. While the case is on-going, the Program staff will keep in touch with the volunteering attorney, providing assistance as needed.
A family of three:
Will be eligible for IBA pro bono program when its total gross income is between 5,440-6,902
If the total gross income is below 5,440
A family of six:
Will be eligible for IBA pro bono program when its total gross income is between 6,902-8,364
If the total gross income is below 6,902
*Additional conditions apply; Eligibility also depends on the legal issue and specific legal analysis.
The Hotline 1-700-505-500
The hotline is available nationwide. Once a person calls in, a student performs an initial interview and provides the caller with some general information as needed. After operating hours, a voicemail is available for the callers. When appropriate, a consultation meeting with a volunteer attorney is scheduled in accordance with the legal issue and the caller's place of residence. In other cases, the student provides the caller with specific instructions on how he should proceed, including specific referral information to other organizations that he may turn to for additional assistance.
"Schar Mitzvah" Donation Fund
Established in 2003 and headed by Supreme Court Justice, the Honorable Eliyahu Mazza, the fund collects donations from lawyers to support the Program. More specifically, funds are being used to pay for auxiliary costs to the legal proceedings of those treated by the Program. Such costs include court fees, specialists' opinions, etc. Each year, all members of the IBA are asked to donate to support the Program and make its vision become a reality. All donations are tax deductible.
Over 2,000 attorneys participate in the Program today, in addition to law students nationwide. It is thanks to the volunteers' professionalism, devotion and care that the Program is able to help thousands of underprivileged people. The Program offers training and seminars for its student and attorney volunteers in the relevant areas of expertise. In addition, the Program's staff is available to advise volunteering on any questions they may have. By joining the Program, lawyers and students demonstrate their social commitment as part of the mission the IBA has taken upon itself to aid underrepresented people to uphold their rights.
In the segmented Israeli society there are different populations. The Program and its volunteers are doing their best to reach out and assist every segment with respect to its special needs. We have volunteers from all types of communities, speaking various languages and assisting those who are unfamiliar with the local culture and the Hebrew language.
In order to reach out to as many marginal populations as possible, the Program initiated:
Intense activity within the Israel Bedouin community
Constant presence in the city of
Special assistance to new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and
Special project to assist the mentally ill
Immediate response at time of emergency to specific populations in need