MOSCOW, February 7 - RAPSI. The Pro Bono Legal Assistance Law has entered into force. The law gives regional authorities broad powers to provide legal consultations to the public. Specifically, they will now be entitled to expand the category of individuals eligible for free legal assistance. Roughly 630 million rubles ($20.8 million) may be allocated from regional budgets. Additionally, each region will have to spend about 7.5 million rubles ($248,000) on setting up legal offices.

Free legal assistance will be provided to socially unprotected people from both the government and non-governmental organizations.

The government's side of the system will be financed by regional budgets. By law, legal clinics at law schools will provide a large portion of the free legal aid. Students will advise eligible clients for free under their teachers' supervision.

The law has also shifted the burden of professional liability onto those rendering the services, i.e. students who would like to practice law.

The non-governmental side of the system will be based on attorneys and law firms, who will provide pro bono assistance at their own expense.

The legal offices designated for pro bono work will be budget-financed and subordinated to the Justice Ministry.