How pro bono can help your career
How pro bono can help your career
I would recommend pro bono work to anyone who is hoping to work in the legal sector. Although experience shadowing legal professionals is valuable, partaking in pro bono work goes above and beyond this. This is because you are delivering legal solutions to your own clients; you have tangible evidence of your legal abilities that you can use to discuss with future employers during applications and interviews, something I have found creates a fantastic initial impression.
As well as the excellent academic reputation, my main motivation for choosing Nottingham Trent for my undergraduate law degree was because of the opportunity to undertake pro bono work. For me, this really stood out in terms of developing my skills in preparation for a career in the legal sector. I initially became involved with the Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre at the end of my second year of University and during my final year this provided two more pro bono opportunities with the Nottingham Personal Support Unit and also the Free Representation Unit.
During my time at the Legal Advice Centre I gained experience of client interviewing, legal research and drafting letters of advice. Similar to the way in which paralegals and trainee solicitors are supervised by qualified solicitors, our supervisors provided us with an excellent level of support and guidance throughout the process. Volunteering at the Legal Advice Centre means that I have developed strong client care skills, which has helped me to gain more work experience and vacation scheme placements. As the tasks you perform are similar to those developed at paralegal/trainee level, it means those who already have a proven track record of them pre-graduation stand out more from other candidates.
Through working at the Legal Advice Centre I was also given the opportunity to apply for the Personal Support Unit. The PSU helps clients who represent themselves in the Nottingham County Court when they cannot access legal representation. The court process (particularly hearings) gives students the opportunity to support clients through what is their most vulnerable and trying moments. This can be extremely challenging but also very rewarding. The PSU is also a drop in service so you learn to work under pressure and develop strong adaptability skills. Working at the PSU has given me a significant amount of confidence in terms of my ability to develop rapport with my current and future clients.
My most recent pro bono role has been with the Nottingham Free Representation Unit. The FRU gives students the chance to represent clients in social security and/or employment tribunals. I advocated on behalf of real clients and helped them to obtain justice. This experience is amazing from a student perspective, although you have a supervising solicitor; you act as the only point of contact for your client. This means that when applying for legal roles I have been able to say that I have acted before as the sole client facing representative, which is evidence that employers can be confident in front of their own clients.
By Bethany Martindale
Student Adviser, Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre
Find out more about our Legal Advice Centre.
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