If you’re tired of your law studies existing mostly on the pages of textbooks, pro bono work could be for you. By getting involved in voluntary law clinics, you can gain practical experience of live cases, boost your CV and make a difference by helping people who could not otherwise afford legal advice.
You may already be aware of the impact student law clinics can have. In 2014, the Cardiff University’s law school innocence project famously overturned the murder conviction of Dwaine George, while legal aid cuts mean many law schools are stepping up to fill the growing gaps in legal public services.
What’s in it for you?
“Pro bono helps students understand more deeply how the law works – and its ambiguity, through interviewing, negotiating and advocating live cases,” says Richard Moorhead, professor of law and professional ethics at the University College London law school.
It also adds real-world achievements to students’ portfolios. “Pro bono work has helped me enormously with applications, both to demonstrate my commitment to a career in law and to answer competency related questions,” says Nathan Samuel, who has just graduated from Cardiff University.
Finding pro bono work
Students can get involved by volunteering, through elective course options, or by choosing a course that includes mandatory pro bono modules (in law schools which also offer the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)).
Cardiff University’s six voluntary pro bono schemes are run in partnership with external organisations. As places are competitive, students have to apply for their chosen scheme through a rigorous application process, which includes a CV and competency based questions.
“Our projects are prestigious,” says professor Julie Price, director of the project and head of the pro bono unit. “Although there are no academic requirements, we try to choose the most suitable people and find something for all students who apply, but we cannot offer everyone client-facing work.” Cardiff has about 1,500 students (1,000 undergraduates) and about 150 are involved in the pro bono work, so the selection process goes some way towards replicating the competitive graduate jobs market.
What to expect
Hannah Camplin, who runs the law clinic at the University of Westminster, says the modules offer a useful mix of doing real work and being evaluated: “Students interview clients, and give advice in the form of a letter which is…