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LCN Says

The benefits of getting involved in pro bono

updated on 05 November 2019

Pro Bono Week 2019 is here and it presents a great opportunity to promote pro bono and recognise those who volunteer their time and their expertise. Events are being held across England and Wales, supported by law firms, chambers, local law societies, charities, universities and law schools. For you as a law student, it is a good time to explore opportunities and how to get involved. You can get involved with a pro bono project at your law school, there may be opportunities to help out at your local Citizens Advice service or law centre, or you can join together to develop a new pro bono project.

LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono Group) promotes, supports and facilitates pro bono legal services that extend access to the law for individuals and communities in need and the organisations that support them. LawWorks believes strongly in creating an enduring pro bono culture among law students; we see it as an integral way of instilling the ethos of pro bono in the next generation of lawyers.

While LawWorks is passionate about pro bono, it is important to highlight that it is not, and should not be seen as, an alternative to legal aid – nor a substitute for funding for advice agencies and law centres. But pro bono can, and does, make a difference to the lives of individuals and communities, including the community organisations which support them. As a law student, you can also make a difference.

Pro bono continues to become more prominent in law schools – figures from independent clinics in the LawWorks Clinics Network demonstrate the breadth of student pro bono activity in England and Wales. There are around 130 law school clinics in the Network, representing 45% of all clinics. Last year thousands of students volunteered in clinics and dealt with many thousands of legal enquiries, across a broad range of legal matters. This demonstrates the vital contribution that students and law schools make to pro bono and enabling access to justice.

The evidence and feedback from law students is that pro bono activity can be immensely satisfying, and can provide valuable experience and learning – helping to develop confidence, practical legal skills (such as interviewing clients and drafting letters of legal advice) and aptitudes that are readily transferable. For many, participating in pro bono can help inform a career path to follow; it can strengthen your CV and job applications; it can inspire an interest and commitment in pro bono that can last throughout a career.

Every year LawWorks celebrates the valuable contribution students make to pro bono through the LawWorks & Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards. The 2019 awards (celebrated at an event held at the House of Commons) demonstrated the innovation, commitment and dedication of law students today. Pro bono activity commended included a university legal advice centre providing free legal advice to over 350 clients a year and running public legal education programmes at schools; a student team assisting at a court-based litigant helpdesk, and a ‘virtual’ advice clinic covering advice on contract, tort, consumer and employment law. There are many innovative, diverse and impactful pro bono projects to get involved with or to help launch or develop.

With the importance of pro bono in mind, if you are looking for something charitable, fun and unique to get involved with this Pro Bono Week, why not register a team for the Advocate and LawWorks ‘Law School Challenge’?! We are looking for teams of students representing universities and law schools to compete and raise funds for both charities – to enable us support the facilitation of free legal advice and representation – and to raise awareness of the services available. The team that raises the most money will receive a LawWorks Student Award endorsed by the attorney general – a great accolade for any aspiring lawyer (or, indeed, future fundraiser!).

Help us to promote the importance of pro bono work in legal education and get as many law students as possible engaged in pro bono. Tell us what pro bono activities you are involved in by using the hashtag #ProBonoWeek #WeDoProBono; photos, comments and publications are all welcome. To find out more about Pro Bono Week, please click here.

Martin Barnes is the chief executive of LawWorks (the operating name of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group). Follow LawWorks on Twitter at @Law_Works