What is Pro Bono?
Pro bono is the provision of free legal services to those who can’t afford to pay or can’t access legal aid. The main pro bono charity in the UK is LawWorks, who broker free legal help for individuals and groups who struggle to access legal services. They work with member law firms (including several magic circle firms), law students and solicitors who have been made redundant and get them involved in pro bono work.
Can I get involved with pro bono and LawWorks?
Yes! LawWorks welcomes the help and skills of proactive undergraduate and postgraduate students of any degree subject. You’re advised to get in touch with the relevant people at your law school as many already work with LawWorks. Alternatively, you can get together with your mates and set up your own group or join in with existing movements. These include:
Streetlaw is a form of public legal education, where links are built with local communities and assist them in finding out about certain areas of law.
External Student Placements
If your law school faces a few problems when you want to set up a pro bono activity or project, arrangements can be made with external agencies and charities for students to undertake a placement.
Law School Legal Advice Clinics
You could also ask your school to set up a legal advice clinic. On top of this, you would receive support from LawWorks, who have links with lawyers who could supervise your work and provide useful feedback.
Miscarriage of Justice & The Innocence Project
More and more universities are taking on criminal cases, aiming to help victims of alleged miscarriages of justice. The Innocence Network UK coordinates this work and helps students assist prisoners who maintain their innocence.
National Pro Bono Week
To recycle our favourite joke once more… National Pro Bono Week isn’t seven days of the year set aside to worship the U2 front man. Instead it’s one week, celebreated annually, where the legal profession celebrates the free-of-charge services that lawyers provide to those who need to use legal services but can’t afford to pay the hefty fees. Usually hosted in the autumn, National Pro Bono Week hosts a variety of events including question and answer sessions, drop-in sessions and student workshops.
Pro bono opportunities are widespread and should definitely be considered by law students. If a vacation scheme or paid legal work experience is proving difficult to come by, setting up a pro bono project is a great alternative that will be respected by graduate recruiters.