With National Pro Bono Week 2016 having just come to an end, I found myself reminiscing back to university student days and particularly pro bono fun! I thought I would collate some thoughts that may be useful for current students looking to pursue careers in law. I hope it helps!
- Do pro bono! Make sure you sign up to get involved with pro bono projects during your time at university. University Law Societies always have great things on offer like mooting, careers events etc. But if you are serious about a career in law, experience in Pro Bono work is a must. Pro Bono is an incredible way to develop a number of skills not to mention it is one of the very few ways you can gain a real insight into life as a lawyer.
- Do not treat pro bono as just a CV enhancer or tick box exercise. For any pro bono experience to be truly meaningful and beneficial, you have to commit to it.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin! It is likely that all of the pro bono opportunities being offered look great. But don’t just put your name down for everything. Be realistic. Where do your strengths and interests lie? Where can you make the most impact? Where can you develop the most skills? There’s no point doing five projects poorly when you can do one or two extremely well.
- Keep a record of all the projects you get involved with and the type of work that you do during your university career. It is useful to reflect on your work and often you might have a similar case/issue that comes up, that you have dealt with before and you can refer back.
- Share any exciting work or projects you’re involved with. The pro bono community is relatively small and with the wonders of social media it’s easy to keep up to date with what other people or student groups are up to. It’s a brilliant way of sharing ideas, learning from each other and building a pro bono community.
- Be prepared to talk about pro bono work in interviews! Pro Bono can really strengthen your CV and applications for jobs. But unless you can really explain how it has helped you enhance your skill set and explain how it relates to any particular job – it’s pointless. Again, if it’s just a CV enhancer-interviewers will see through you!
- Planning to go into the city lawyer life? Even if you are sold by the city lawyer lifestyle that a corporate career provides, pro bono work is still important. Most city firms have huge pro bono departments so you can still offer your services whilst making your big bucks.
- Planning to go into legal aid work/public law/the non shiny corporate world? Good for you! You more than anyone will see every single day the importance of pro bono work and how you will be making an impact on people’s lives for the better. It isn’t all doom and gloom and although has it’s challenges, can be extremely rewarding.
- Always remember the importance of pro bono. Ask yourselves why is pro bono work important? Being a lawyer is often perceived as a glamorous career- especially if you watch Suits (!) But always remember it’s a noble profession that essentially comes down to achieving justice. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to try and ensure that justice remains accessible to all. Especially in these increasingly difficult times.
- Continue pro bono after graduation! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that once you’ve got your degree, finished law school and got a job offer, pro bono is no longer important. It should remain a part of your journey and indeed be a big part in shaping your identity as a lawyer – one that cares.
Some great organisations in my experience to connect with for pro bono/volunteering opportunities:
Bit about Me
I am a junior barrister specialising in criminal defence with a background in human rights and international law. I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2010. I found my love for social justice work through pro bono at Warwick.
I was Pro Bono Officer in my final year and introduced a number of new projects to the Warwick Pro Bono portfolio. For the first time, in 2010 Warwick Pro Bono was recognised in a number of national awards including the LawWorks Attorney General Student Awards 2010 and we won the BPBU law school challenge.
I also set up YOU*th Inspire as a student and continue to direct the project. We are always looking for new volunteers and organisations to collaborate with. We are currently making plans for 2017- please get in touch!
Follow us on: @youthinspire
FB: YOU*th Inspire