National Pro Bono Week does exactly as it says on the tin; the legal sector comes together to celebrate the pro bono work that is conducted throughout the industry. But what even is pro bono?!
Pro bono is legal advice or representation provided by lawyers to individuals, charities or community groups who cannot afford to pay for that advice or representation. Legal work must be free to the client to qualify as pro bono work and the outcome should have no effect on this.
What is national pro bono week?
National Pro Bono week is an annual celebration (think more seminars and talks, fewer wild parties) that celebrates the pro bono work that many lawyers – solicitors, barristers and legal executives –carry out.
The events usually take place in November and in 2014, it will be the thirteenth celebration – woo hoo!
Can I get involved?
Of course! Loads of events run during the week including a pro bono question time debate, a drop-in session for MPs to talk to experts about securing pro bono support for constituents and a panel on international pro bono.
A full list of events can be found here, and some events may be invite only, but otherwise events can be attended by anybody, including law students!
Pro bono isn’t just confined to one week…
That’s right, you can get involved with pro bono work all year round, and it’s particularly useful for those doing their LLB..
Pro bono opportunities, such as setting up a Street Law project, a legal advice clinic or looking into miscarriages of justice, can be undertaken by keen students at any time. These are great for your both you and your career.
Involvement with pro bono work will test and strengthen your team work and leadership skills if you get involved with the organisation. Interacting with new people and clients will develop your personal confidence, and legal skills such as negotiation, advocacy and public speaking will also be enhanced.
On top of this, with competition for vacation schemes and training contracts as fierce as ever, involvement with a pro bono project or attendance to a National Pro Bono week could give you the edge over other candidates.
At the end of the day, pro bono involvement can be a great way to ‘showcase’ your expertise in the area of law that you wish to pursue, whilst providing a useful service to the people that really need it.
Specialise your pro bono work
If you are in the position to choose the specific pro bono project that you wish to become involved with, then you could base your decision on the area of law that you are most interested in. For example, if you are interested in human rights law, then you could become involved in schemes such as the ‘Innocence Project’ where you may be able to represent and litigate for wrongfully convicted people.
All of these extra skills can improve your chances of securing training contracts or pupillage. If you have demonstrated your commitment and interest in the law by becoming involved with pro bono, (especially if it is relevant to your choice of firm or chamber) then this will come through at interview.
Pro bono is a very useful tool for students to take advantage of and utilise to increase their expertise. However, remember that pro bono is for life, not just for your student days – and the existence of National Pro Bono Week confirms that you should maintain a keen involvement throughout your career as a lawyer!