Pro bono translates roughly, in Latin, as ‘for the public good’ which, when you think about it, is a good thing (obviously). Lawyers and law students alike give up their time to volunteer to help those needing legal assistance, but struggle to access the necessary support. For example, if you’re an undergraduate student and you’ve been living off jacket potato and beans for the last four months, you’re going to be unable to afford a lawyer if you find yourself in a spot of legal bother.
Law students sometimes undertake pro bono work but it doesn’t have to involve offering free legal advice. For example, one student from the University of East Anglia got involved in a ‘Streetlaw’ project, aiming to give kids aged eight to 16 an insight into law, raise their aspirations and increase their knowledge of law. But why should you, law undergraduate #107056, get involved with pro bono work?
Personal benefits of doing pro bono work
First things first, doing pro bono work helps your law career massively. It’s hugely relevant to the industry and can help you find out what areas of law you’d fancy specialising in and develop the skills required to follow a career in law. You might enjoy working in criminal law with young offenders, for example. More importantly, pro bono work tells employers that you’re committed to justice and are able to work within a team in an open-minded manner. This will make you as attractive to employers as David Beckham is to every man and woman on Earth.
It’s not only industry related skills that will develop. You’ll become more confident and will sharpen your leadership skills if you take the lead on a project. Additionally, pro bono work will be a nice change from the daily academic slog.
Career benefits gained from pro bono work
As pro bono is hugely relevant to a law career (did we mention this before?), undertaking such work will allow you to stick out like a highly qualified sore thumb in the crowded job market. Having pro bono work under your metaphorical belt will allow you to list real face-to-face client contact, interviewing, research and drafting skills on your CV and in training contract or pupillage application forms.
Benefits to others
Leaving behind the dog-eat-dog world of applying for training contracts and trying to get ahead of your classmates in law, pro bono work benefits those who need legal services but are beyond the reach of their wallet capacity. Remember that you’re extremely fortunate enough to be studying law at university (even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it) and you can play your part in helping the legal system work for everyone, not just those who can afford it. Yes, it has great benefits for you and your career, but the primary goal should be providing legal services.
Additionally, if you take part in pro bono work, you’re actively suggesting that access to the legal system shouldn’t be based on how much dollar you have. Therefore, if your law school offers a pro bono programme, this will foster a culture of commitment among new lawyers entering the profession and pro bono can become more widespread.
For more information on setting up a pro bono project, click here.