The Legal Reform Project, Part B was a bilateral collaboration between Bangladesh and Canada to support justice sector reform in Bangladesh, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Executing Ministry for Bangladesh as the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. The Canadian Executing Agency, on behalf of CIDA, as a consortium of the Canadian Bar Association and IBM Canada. The Project was originally scheduled to end in 2007, but was extended to a second phase which ran from 2009 to 31 March 2012.

The purpose of the Project in Phase 2 was to improve access to justice for the indigent in Bangladesh through more effective legal aid mechanisms. The Project  supported the development of government legal aid programs delivered by the National Legal Aid Services Organization under the Legal Aid Services Act 2000. The Project had three components:

  • Supporting professional legal aid administrations in selected pilot Districts (seven in total by the end of the Project). 
  • Supporting and extending Duty Counsel Services. 
  • Capacity building for the National Legal Aid Services Organization (NLASO)

These components build on the Project’s work in Phase 1 from 2003 to 2008. This work has been built around six core principles, drawn from internationally accepted principles for access to justice: accessibility; equality and gender priority; transparency and efficiency; client focused services; service coordination; and quality legal aid services.

Project Summary


From 2003-2008 the Project developed model legal aid programs in two pilot Districts, Jessore and Gazipur. Evaluation showed strong results in improving the quality and quantity of legal aid and in Phase 2 the model was rolled out to five more Districts: Dhaka, Brahmanbaria, Comilla, Gopalgonj and Rajshahi. Project support included:

  • Equipment for a legal aid office in each District;
  • Hiring, training and supporting a Coordinator (staff lawyer) for each DLAC;
  • Establishing a gender committee under each DLAC 
  • Operating funds for the legal aid office;
  • Program fund and technical assistance for legal aid awareness and outreach;
  • Training panel lawyers and monitoring panel standards;

Photo: National Legal Aid Services Organization opening ceremonyEvaluation of the model districts showed substantial increases in access to justice in the pilot districts, including a very significant rise in the number and proportion of women as legal aid clients, and the participation of women lawyers in the provision of legal aid.

In 2011 the Government of Bangladesh announced its intent to establish legal aid offices with full time staff in all 64 judicial districts, based on the model developed by the Project. This proposal was in the process of implementation at the time of the project wrap-up.


“Duty counsel” is a new type of legal aid service for Bangladesh, introduced on a pilot basis to Dhaka in March 2006. Duty counsel lawyers provide brief emergency services, usually on a one-time basis. From March 2006 to March 2008, two staff lawyers in Dhaka saw more than 5,000 clients and released almost 800 adults and children on bail. From 2008 to 2010, the Dhaka Legal Aid office extended services to include informal mediation of family court matters, services to the Dhaka Vagrant's Home, and weekly advice clinics in the offices of the National Women's Organization. The duty counsel pilot project ended in December 2010 and the Project prepared a report for the NLASO on options for the formal adoption of duty counsel into the legal aid program.


The Project provided technical assistance and financial support to NLASO to establish a national office and create programs under the mandate of the LASA 2000. In 2009 the GOB assigned the first full-time Director for the NLASO and made a major new commitment to establishing and staffing a national Head Office for the Organization. The Project provided extensive  technical assistance and training to create a modern effective national legal aid management program, including strategic planning, systems for collecting and reporting legal aid statistics, financial management and forecasting. Between 2009 and 2011, the newly functional NLASO introduced numerous policy reforms, and provided training to the first group of full time legal aid staff assigned to district legal aid offices.. . In its last operational year,  the Project focused on providing policy advice to NLASO, supporting a strategic planning exercise, and transferring knowledge from the Project’s pilot districts to the planned national roll-out. Many of the procedures developed in the pilot provinces have been formalized in legislation or regulations of national application. In addition, the project undertook baseline studies of legal aid in approximately half the districts of Bangladesh in its last year, and sent staff to monitor implementation of the new rules and procedures, with detailed feedback to the NLASO and the respective districts.

We believe that through the interventions of the project, supporting the strong commitment of the GOB to improving legal aid,  Bangladesh has  advanced its capacity as a nation to deliver high-equality, effective and efficient legal aid services, thus improving access to justice and quality of life for poor and disadvantaged justice seekers