Being involved in pro bono work as a student can be a great experience.
You may be looking towards a career with a social justice focus (for example, working in a community legal centre, legal aid, pro bono clearing house or referral scheme, or a law firm pro bono practice), or you simply have a passion for social justice.
What are some of the benefits of getting involved in social justice?
The benefits of getting involved in social justice include:
satisfaction from helping disadvantaged people gain access to justice
practical work experience that can’t be learnt in a classroom and looks great on your CV. For example, how to communicate with clients and analyse real life legal issues;
opportunities to network with like-minded solicitors and other law students; and
connections with the local community.
Pro bono legal work is also recognised for the purpose of the pre-admission Practical Legal Training requirement.
Social Justice Opportunites is a guide produced by the Centre and the Australian Law Students’ Association for students and new lawyers on how to volunteer and find employment in the social justice sphere. You can also follow SJOpps on Twitter or like it on Facebook to keep up to date on job and volunteering opportunities.Check out SJOpps for more information on topics including:
volunteering at a Community Legal Centre (see CLC Volunteers for current opportunities);
checking with your Law Student Society or the Law Faculty at your university for pro bono programs or placements – see also Models for student involvement in pro bono. For example, the Centre has a relationship with the University of NSW which allows up to two interns to do a placement at the Centre each session; and/or
enrolling in a clinical legal education program at your university.
What is pro bono?
Pro bono means “for the public good”. Law students who get involved in pro bono provide a community service by:
assisting in providing services to improve access to justice for disadvantaged people who can’t otherwise afford to pay for legal assistance, or
assisting non-profit organisations that work on behalf of those people, and
doing it without getting any kind of fee, reward or academic credit.
It’s a great introduction for students to the ethical responsibility of lawyers to contribute their services.
Karen volunteered at a community legal centre. The CLC gave her training and supervision so she could answer calls from a wide variety of clients and write case summaries on client contact forms. She also ended up helping with filing case documents and working with other students and solicitors doing legal research into clients’ cases.
After a few months at the CLC, Karen had developed practical skills in client communication, case management, teamwork and legal research, and understood how a legal office works, which were all skills that made her attractive to future employers. But the best thing according to Karen was that she felt like she had made a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged people.