Pro bono Initiatives
Pro bono work is an excellent way to gain legal experience and boost your credentials before you apply for a training contract or pupillage. Below, we list a range of opportunities which might interest you, but remember that this list is not definitive – if you’re aware of a scheme that isn’t on here, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.You should also approach these organisations with the right attitude – don’t just turn up to improve your CV, remember that these charities and schemes provide a vital service to people in real need. We who are in the social position to aspire to lucrative legal careers should be more than willing to use some of our time and skills to help others.
The AIRE (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) Centre is a London-based charity set up to uphold the rights of marginalised individuals in the field of European human rights law and European Union law. The centre has a long-running internship programme for aspiring lawyers to use their skills to provide free legal advice to those who need it.
Amicus provides legal representation for the most vulnerable death row inmates in the United States penal system. It trains and places 20-30 interns to help defend capital cases every year, filling many of these places with aspiring lawyers from the United Kingdom. You can apply for an internship in the US on the Amicus website.
The charity works to rehabilitate offenders during and after their time in the penal system. Volunteers provide information and advice, as well as such tools as employability training. The website is decidedly old school (ie, almost impossible to navigate) but volunteering opportunities are to be had for the intrepid surfer.
The Aspire Foundation actively campaigns to promote the rights, conditions and aspirational potential of women and girls across the world. It also operates a pro bono mentoring program, which brings the wisdom and advice of successful women from the business and professional world to aspiring women in the charity sector so that their expertise and inspiration can be spread to other women and girls. There is more information about how to become a mentor, or indeed a mentee, on the website.
‘ASAP’ seeks to uphold the rights of asylum seekers to food and shelter; it provides free representation to those appealing UKBA decisions and advises agencies and campaigns on changing policy. It is always in need of duty barristers to voluntarily represent those in asylum support appeal hearings (this is not open to law students).
This programme is a part of Southampton Law School. Aspiring barristers can be paired with a local barrister specialising in criminal, employment, family or housing law. Spending time assisting a barrister is a great way to learn about the realities of the Bar and pick up some tips from those who have made it there.
The organisation provides free legal assistance through volunteer barristers to those who cannot obtain public funding. Volunteer admin and fundraising roles are available to law students and graduates, and you can also volunteer for the unit through LawWorks or your university. The Bar Pro Bono Unit also seeks volunteer help from barristers, solicitors and clerks.
This law clinic advises exclusively on employment issues. It is held fortnightly, on Thursday evenings 5.30pm-7.30pm. The clinic is run by The College of Law in Birmingham.
Staffed by voluntary employment solicitors, BERAL provides free and confidential advice by telephone on Wednesday evenings (18:00 – 20:00). It was established in 2003 by Professor Richard Grimes with lawyers from Wragge & Co, Saltley and Nechells Law Centre and others. Since then, the service has helped more than 400 clients. The 24-hour phone line is 0121 697 8055.
Running a multitude of different projects and initiatives, the Blackfriars Settlement’s work also includes a legal advice clinic. It advises on contract disputes, debt, employment and housing. Students from City Law School support the work of the clinic.
This is a great opportunity for BPP students to do some pro bono volunteering. There are three clinics across the country: The Leeds and Manchester centres offer general legal advice, while the London clinic provides property litigation and employment guidance.
A LawWorks Clinic based in Brighton which offers specific legal advice between October and April in a monthly clinic (appointment only). Advice is for those who have had legal difficulties with residential, long leasehold property. The service is offered by the College of Law with supervision from voluntary lawyers and staff.
This is a mentoring programme which pairs volunteer mentors from university and professional backgrounds with young mentees, such as teenage parents and children in care. Mentoring takes place “in a secure online space” with a view to helping mentees reach their employment potential. Students and professionals can volunteer through the website.
This Christian organisation, based in Reading, facilitates a number of information and support services. This includes a monthly pro-bono drop-in legal clinic (first Thursday of each month); a licensed debt advice clinic; assistance with filling administrative and legal forms as well as housing advice. The legal clinic is registered with LawWorks and law students from Reading University can volunteer.
This is an Exeter-based centre which provides legal assistance to the local community. Students at the University of Exeter should make this their first port of call for pro bono opportunities.
There are 35 full timers and over 100 volunteers who run the centre for the benefit of asylum seekers and refugees in Coventry. The centre oversees a range of different projects for which it is possible to volunteer and has plenty of opportunities for advisory and advocacy roles.
This is a government compensation scheme which pays money to victims of violent crimes who have suffered physical or mental injuries. Some firms (for example, those listed below) may be involved in assisting victims to make applications for compensation, but it should be made clear that this is not a scheme in which volunteers can participate.
Warwick Law School runs this scheme, which sends undergraduates to take up two-month internships at capital defence offices across the US. The programme affords the opportunity for hands-on experience in criminal law, human rights and medical law. Warwick Law School students can get application details through the website.
Private donors fund this foundation’s environmental work. Volunteers can undertake an advice and referral service internship – an essential CV booster for those aspiring to practise in environmental law. It also makes for excellent general experience in public law and general planning procedures.
A human rights charity which represents those arrested extra-judicially and works to protect the right to a fair trial. It frequently has internship opportunities to work in its London office within a number of teams including support of the legal caseworkers.
FNF is a charity that works to make sure that both parents maintain access to their children during and after family breakdown. Volunteering opportunities include assisting at FNF’s London office, working as a helpline adviser and becoming a telephone contact for a client in need.
The FRU provides legal services such as advice, case preparation and advocacy in tribunal cases to those without the means to obtain legal support through financial, personal or other reasons. It is heavily reliant on volunteers and provides excellent advocacy experience for junior lawyers. You can find out all the details regarding the application process for a volunteer position on the FRU website.
PIL Net brings together networks of lawyers and civil society organisations that facilitate access to justice and work towards the protection of rights. The website acts as a forum for shared resources, opportunities and news. Unpaid internships are available in Europe and Asia and more information is found here.
This free legal advice drop-in clinic runs Wednesdays 18:00 to 20:00. It doesn’t give advice on crime, family or immigration but concentrates on business law, contract issues and employment. It’s another LawWorks clinic, so investigate further opportunities through the central website.
This organisation campaigns for reform to reduce prison numbers and crime statistics. It works with government, the media, students and other members of the public to achieve this through fundraising, publishing reports and lobbying. Check the vacancies page for relevant legal opportunities.
The ICVA promotes the rights and conditions of people held in police custody through working with police forces and the Home Office. Training in key transferable skills is delivered by local police forces, at the cost of £499 to non-members and £299 to members.
Online forum for lawyers and law students to register interest in pro bono projects – organisations can survey the information and contact most relevant individuals in involvement in projects. Registration is free and does not automatically oblige you to accept any offers of project work.
The Independent parental special education advice is a registered charity which provides free advice to parents of children with special educational needs on such matters as dealing with local authorities, exclusions from schools and discrimination. Volunteers can work on the charity’s general advice line, for its tribunal support service or just provide general help in the office.
LawWorks is a nationwide legal aid charity. It provides many opportunities to get involved as a volunteer legal adviser at one of its many clinics around the country, whether you are unemployed, between jobs, a full-time legal practitioner or retired. LawWorks also works with various universities and is thoroughly recommended to those seeking pro bono opportunities.
A transnational alliance network which seeks to bring lawyers and judges wishing to carry pro bono work together with rule of law and access to justice projects. There are opportunities for students both in London and internationally (the project is based in the USA). Internships are unpaid and require minimal commitment of two days per week or six continuous weeks.
The National Council for Civil Liberties campaigns to uphold basic human rights and freedoms through the courts and parliamentary lobbying, as well as by working with communities. Volunteers with a law degree generally respond to written queries from members of the public about their rights.
The trust works to support the survival of London based legal advice centres and agencies through fundraising initiatives and providing financial guidance. You can get involved with events (London Legal Walk), awareness raising activities. There are also some internship opportunities which are advertised online when available.
Based in Leeds, this project helps find legal assistance for those seeking asylum. It does not provide legal advice itself, instead it co-ordinates referrals to local solicitors and immigrant specialists. Volunteers support this process through research, case coordination and court support.
Under-17s and mentally vulnerable adults must be accompanied by an ‘appropriate adult’ when in custody or being interviewed by police. The NAAN does not provide appropriate adults directly, but advises and supports all trained volunteers in this important field. You can volunteer for training to become an appropriate adult through the website.
In July 2010, this central ‘hub’ in Chancery Lane was created to bring together the legal profession’s pro-bono work, helping individuals and community groups within England and Wales. The office now houses the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the CILEX Pro Bono Trust, LawWorks, The Access to Justice Foundation, The London Legal Support Trust and i-Pro-Bono. Through the move, it hopes to further the aims of the individual organisations with the principal objective to make it easier for people in need to seek and receive help.
An initiative from the University of the Arts London, supported by a number of City law firms, that offers free legal advice relating to intellectual property issues. By registering with the service, members benefits from individual advice, access to podcasts and events. This is a useful forum to share your knowledge and resources on all the latest IP developments.
A UK charity that is involved in the provision of aid and development projects internationally, with the goal of ending poverty. Hosting fundraising events, volunteering at festivals or volunteering at shops are all worthy opportunities. In addition, there are office volunteer and internship positions available at the head office in Oxford and across the regional offices.
Another member of the London Law Centres, volunteers interested in becoming involved should apply through the Law Centres Federation.
Plan is an international development charity working mostly with children to end child poverty. Fundraising, supporting campaigns and promoting Plan through social media are all important ways to contribute. There are often specific project volunteer roles, based in the Old Street office, which demand a commitment of two to three days a week, for three to six months. These are advertised online when available.
The Trust works with young people aged 13 to 30; it enables them to move into work, education or training with its financial support and programmes. Volunteers are always needed - positions available will dependent on the relevant regional projects taking place.
The PAS provides legal advice to UK prisoners about their rights and conditions, and takes up prisoner complaints. The organisation is reliant on volunteers to help its small number of caseworkers. Volunteers are given responsibility and training in prison law and human rights. You can apply through the website.
This network brings together 400 firms who have pledged to offer free professional advice and support to their local community. Opportunities are restricted to professional firms.
The British Red Cross provides services both within the UK and assistance in the response to emergencies overseas. UK activities include running first aid training, providing health and social care and refugee services. You could get involved by volunteering in a shop, in the head office or participating in a fundraising event. In association there are also volunteering opportunities at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, but these are unpaid positions.
The Refugee Council is a leading charity which provides direct support to asylum seekers and refugees in the United Kingdom. Opportunities include face-to-face advice sessions with clients as well as fundraising and other financial work. Apply online for an application pack.
Reprieve provides legal advice to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves all over the world, including inmates of Guantanamo bay and those facing the death penalty. Reprieve advertises vacancies for volunteers to work in its London, Lahore and American offices in the ‘Get involved’ section of its website.
Working in 120 countries, Save the Children seeks to protect children’s rights and lives by facilitating development programmes and providing emergency relief. Volunteer positions arise in the UK within its fundraising efforts; you could work in one of the high street shops or support local events and activities
The programme is designed to get teenagers and younger schoolchildren interested in and informed about the legal issues which affect their lives. Durham students can apply by emailing the project leader (details on the website).
This advice service provides a daily diagnostic drop in centre, casework support and court representation to residents of Tower Hamlets. There is also an outreach service to Somali residents. Volunteers can provide support as administrative assistants or supporting legal caseworkers.
Evening and weekend legal advice centre for those who would ordinarily not be able to afford such support – it holds the title of oldest surviving free legal advice centre in the world. Positions are available as initial assessment volunteers and volunteer legal advisers.
Part of the Thomas Reuters Foundation, this is a community of lawyers and law firms forming a ‘go-to’ directory for beneficiary NGOs and social enterprise groups. Membership is free of charge and eligible lawyers can chose which projects they are able to support.
With one on-campus centre and a second based in The Settlement, East Manchester, this initiative provides free and confidential legal advice to members of the public during teaching semesters. Its secondary aim is to provide practical experience for current law students who volunteer at both locations.
A national charity with offices across England and Wales providing free, confidential support to victims and witnesses of crime, as well as families, friends and other affected people. Volunteers outnumber staff four to one, so help out at your local office. Details are on the website.
The YJB is a public body established to coordinate the youth justice system in England and Wales. Its activities involve working to reduce and prevent offending by those under 18 years old and ensure that custody is both appropriate and safe. You cannot volunteer with the body – but some firms, such as those listed below, will work with the YJB in a pro-bono capacity.