In recognition of National Pro Bono week (November 6th – 11th 2017), I’ve collaborated with a few of my coursemates on the GDL to talk about our experiences doing Pro Bono alongside the GDL and why we feel every Law student should take up the mantle and involve themselves in Pro Bono work. For more on why Pro Bono matters so much, read this piece by the National Pro Bono Centre: ‘About National Pro Bono Week’
Take it from us, Pro Bono is one of the best things you can do as a Law Student
Getting involved with Pro Bono is more than just a way of getting valuable advocacy experience. It’s also an opportunity for you to play a vital role in helping provide advice and support to members of the public who may not be able to afford legal advice or who may struggle to find a just result without the intervention of Pro Bono projects. Any lawyer worth their fees will tell you how good it is to get involved with Pro Bono, and you shouldn’t neglect to involve yourself in projects that appeal to you.
I’m super grateful for my friends on the GDL who have contributed to this piece to share their Pro Bono experiences and discuss why every aspiring lawyer should involve themselves with Pro Bono during their studies (and beyond). It’s the first collaboration piece on the blog so I am really excited to make a habit of this so you can hear advice from more GDL students. I know you love hearing from me, but variety is the spice of life…
Read on for great advice and hopefully we can leave you feeling inspired about Pro Bono. I’ve left contact links for everyone underneath their stories so that you can get in touch with any of us if you’d like to.
“This experience reaffirms all the reasons I went into the Law”
Pro Bono Volunteer assisting with the Grenfell Tower aftermath
I’ve recently started volunteering at Bishop, Lloyd & Jackson Solicitors where I assist with work pertaining to the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy. It is truly inspiring to be working with people who are dedicated to seeking justice for the victims and their families. A few weeks in, I have already learnt about housing law, negligence, how judicial reviews and public inquiries are conducted, the magnitude of paperwork involved and perhaps most importantly the persistence and emotional resilience needed by those who work on such cases on a daily basis. This experience reaffirms all the reasons I went into the Law.
Linkedin: Aqsa Hussain
“Pro bono is a way of opening a door into the world of legal practice”
Student Representative for The School Exclusion Project
Pro bono is one of the options tossed at you in week one of law school. While facing a myriad of classes, applications and career questions, it can seem impossible to add another task to the list. The difference is, that as much as lectures may teach you, pro bono is a way of opening a door into the world of legal practice. With the School Exclusion project I’ve been working on legal submissions and preparing for presenting arguments at a hearing. It quickly becomes clear that coursework doesn’t always cover a real life scenario. It’s up to you to make it work. More than that, pro bono is a chance to use all the opportunities you have to help someone else, to empower them, and use the skills you have to change something for the better. Don’t go for a program that is popular, or that you feel obliged to do for the CV credit. Do something that really makes a difference to you, it will be a reward in itself.
Linkedin: Georgia Rycroft
“I am starting a Pro-Bono project for City students with my Council housing estate’s Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), to include advocacy for vulnerable residents and community work”
Founder/Director of the Brunswick Court Community Pro-Bono Project
Vice Chair, Brunswick Court Tenant Management (TMO) Committee
I am starting a pro-bono project for City students with my Council housing estate’s Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), to include advocacy for vulnerable residents and community work, plus the chance to observe the application of housing and heath and safety law in Council run tower blocks post Grenfell. In a few weeks we will be advertising through the City volunteering site.
Being on the GDL myself, I understand finding time is tough and many pro-bono opportunities demand a lot, not taking into account the fact we only have 24 hours in a day! I want this project to be different, allowing more freedom around study, helped by the location being less than 5 minutes from the University; a skills swap allowing students to gain valuable experience working with the public, learning about problems people face from other walks of life, plus helping to build a legacy working with the University’s neighbouring community that will make a difference.
There are nearly 300 properties on the estate, approx 2000 residents. We are a diverse community who have worked hard to make the estate a place we are proud to live in. The TMO performs a statutory function, the committee is a voluntary body made up of estate residents elected to represent the residents as a whole, I currently hold the position of Vice Chair. We negotiate and work with the local authority to improve quality of life for residents, retaining control and managing budgets in some areas, giving residents more say over their homes and community.
Next year is the estate’s 60th anniversary. We were the first inner London residential tower block, built just over a decade after the arrival of the Empire Windrush, a marker for the expansion of Islington’s cultural identity. We are organising a celebration and creative project as a landmark of this for all residents, interviewing and recording memories of original residents and those who have come come from all over the world to call the estate home. The aim is to get residents involved in the running of their estate, improve access to culture by working in partnership with the wider community and to foster integration…
It should also be fun! If you’d like to get involved, keep an eye on www.volunteering.city.ac.uk, we’d love to hear from you.
“Working on the [School Exclusions] Project has made me even more certain that I want to become a Barrister and help advocate for those vulnerable to unfair or unlawful treatment”
Blessing Mukosha Park
Student Director for The School Exclusion Project
Author of ‘Blessing at The Bar’
Before getting involved with Pro Bono I had done some volunteering with Citzen’s Advice and I knew that I wanted to take things further and be involved with helping clients and giving advice. As a Non-Law undergraduate, opportunities to work on legal Pro Bono projects were obviously slim, but upon arriving at City I threw myself into Pro Bono and was drawn to the School Exclusion Project. Working on the project has made me even more certain that I want to become a Barrister and help advocate for those vulnerable to unfair or unlawful treatment. The disproportionate risk that children with disabilities, special education needs and from Black Afro-Caribbean backgrounds face of being unfairly or unlawfully excluded is a major issue and I am proud to work on a project that helps children face fair treatment. Every child deserves to have an education and to be treated with fairness and often, without representation, parents can find it difficult to fight for their child’s right to stay in school. It’s a lot to juggle alongside the GDL, but knowing I can help bring relief to someone facing unfair or unlawful treatment makes any amount of sacrifice completely worth it.