Setting up a pro bono project
You may decide to set up a pro-bono project if you have an idea for a group that you believe would work and would be worthwhile.
Make sure that the idea for the project you have and the people you wish to target are not already accounted for within other local or student voluntary projects. Apart from the fact that there may not be a need for your new group, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes!
Do your research
Conduct research that will help you discover the most useful and necessary project to start up in your local area. For example, there may not be any involvement or interaction between the local primary and secondary schools and your law school, so a project such as Street Law may work well. Alternatively, if you have become particularly interested in specific subjects, putting your knowledge into practice via pro bono activity could prove useful. Proper and thorough research will help you realise the best type of project to undertake, or indeed whether your idea is feasible in the first place.
Think about your time constrictions.
Involvement with pro-bono is of course worthwhile, but your degree and academic work will always be your priority. If you feel that juggling the organisation and management of a pro bono group may jeopardise your chances of getting good grades, then perhaps think about getting involved with pro-bono at a lower level. For example, you could volunteer at the local Citizens Advice Bureau offices or perhaps get involved with groups that are already in place rather than starting up or running a group. It’s a huge commitment starting up your own group, but if you feel you can devote the time, it can be hugely worthwhile.
Use any spare time that you may have to begin planning. For example, you could use a couple of weeks of the summer holidays for organisation and for contacting any relevant people for advice and information, such as faculty members within your university who could offer you guidance or support and similar groups within other universities.
Make a plan.
It might also be a good idea to draw up a plan for the year containing the project’s objectives: the stage at which you allocate time for promotions, training and planning for the first session or event. This will help to clarify exactly what can be achieved by your project in the coming year.
You will also need to consider the level of involvement necessary for your project. Will there be a sufficient amount of people interested in getting involved with your project? Try and put together a few people to form a committee under your leadership, who could help with both the preliminary work and the project throughout the year.
Promotion and advertising.
Once the idea of the project has been properly researched and the plan for the year is in place, the project will need to be promoted in order to recruit a suitable amount of volunteers. It is a good idea to contact the careers department at your school or university who can put you in touch with the voluntary sector. If you become a registered voluntary group within your institution, then they may be able to help you in terms of promotions and recruitment.
I did this with my university and was therefore able to get some information about my pro-bono group up on their website, as well as attend the volunteer’s fair where those interested in being involved could sign up. It is also a good idea to have links with the careers department and attend any fairs (hopefully specific law fairs) that are run. It may also be worth putting on an information session about the project and invite all students to see if they would like to become involved. See if you can get emails sent to all students within your institution to let them know about your project, why they should be involved and where they can sign up.
Training your pro bono volunteers.
You’ll also need to think about training your volunteers. Training needs will obviously differ according to each group, but you might well need to get people of a professional calibre involved in the training session in order to provide volunteers with the best possible knowledge. For example, in my Street Law session there was a talk from a professional about child protection and the implications that surround working with children. It is very important that you find out whether you need to perform necessary tasks such as CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) checks upon yourself or your volunteers in order for your project to go ahead. This is where the voluntary or careers co-ordinators as well as faculty members and teachers may be able to help you.