Taruniga Thambiayah, Publications Editor and Contributor of the UCL Student Pro Bono Committee.
When embarking on the journey of obtaining a law degree, the primary focus often revolves around acquiring the essential theoretical knowledge and skills required to become a proficient legal professional. Nonetheless, the path to becoming an exceptional solicitor or barrister extends far beyond the realm of textbooks, statutes, and case law. One of the most gratifying and illuminating facets of a legal education lies in the engagement with pro bono opportunities, where you as a student can contribute to the provision of legal and advice services free of charge to individuals or organisations in need. Through my active involvement in these opportunities, I’ve uncovered a series of compelling reasons that reinforce my belief in the immense value of pursuing pro bono work and why it is the best decision I have made during my law degree.
Law at university-level is brimming with abstract legal concepts and theories. By contrast, pro bono work affords students the opportunity to translate these theories into practical application within real-world situations often for those who are particularly vulnerable. Whether it involves assisting clients through legal research or honing casework and client management skills, placements offer an invaluable experience essential for developing legal acumen. Furthermore, due to their long term commitment well beyond what a mini pupilage and vacation scheme can offer, you are able to really understand the function and running of the advice or legal clinic you are placed in. Despite the lack of glamour, comprehending the significance of administrative tasks assumes a pivotal role in any legal profession which can easily be learnt in a pro bono placement, thereby setting those who engage in such opportunities apart as distinguished candidates.
Sharpening Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking, and Soft Skills
Participation in pro bono work will refine your problem-solving and critical thinking skills while also enhancing your soft skills. Dealing with the intricacies of pro bono cases, you will be empowered to navigate legal challenges and craft creative solutions for clients who hold limited resources. These skills are not only transferable across legal disciplines but also complemented by the development of strong communication, negotiation, and interpersonal abilities, which are highly sought after by legal employers. As prospective solicitors or barristers, you inherit a unique and influential role within society as you emerge as voices for those who cannot advocate for themselves. Engaging in pro bono work during one’s studies nurtures a comprehension of the moral and ethical duties inherent in the legal profession, fostering an unwavering commitment to justice and fairness that transcends into one’s professional journey. The distinctive facet of pro bono work lies in its capacity to yield tangible results that engender a positive impact in the lives of those in need. It catalyses personal growth and self-discovery, challenging individuals to navigate intricate legal dilemmas, collaborate with a diverse clientele, and cultivate adept problem-solving skills. The ensuing sense of personal fulfilment remains unparalleled.
Building a Strong Moral Compass
Pro bono nurtures an understanding of the capacity of the law to effect social change and justice. It exposes individuals to tangible legal issues that impact those unable to afford legal representation or advice at a deeply human level. Pro bono work does not exclusively benefit law students; it extends its influence to the communities you serve in your placement. By ensuring access to legal representation for individuals with limited financial resources, it engenders social equity and contributes to the overall welfare of society. Furthermore, volunteering facilitates the identification of broader policy and social issues whilst cultivating one’s capacity for empathy, compassion, and a resolute commitment to justice, through firsthand interactions with often vulnerable clients as well as observing experienced solicitors and advice specialists. Having these guiding principles as you navigate your future career (which does not have to be strictly legal!) will serve you well.
Expanding Legal Horizons
Pro bono work frequently involves a diverse array of legal issues often at the same time, many of which may remain unexplored within the confines of one’s academic degree. Immersion in such experiences offers fresh perspectives on different areas of law which you may never have considered and can unveil one’s genuine passions within the legal landscape. Whether it involves family, immigration, or social welfare law, pro bono work provided a varied sampling of legal specialties.
Pro bono opportunities during a law degree extend far beyond a mere academic supplement; they constitute an indispensable component of a comprehensive legal education. Placements at advice and legal clinics furnish students with practical experience, nurture a sense of responsibility, broaden horizons, and empower individuals to transcend self-interest as you actively participate in making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. For further information about pro bono opportunities, please visit UCL Access to Justice – Pro Bono Opportunities. Here, you will be able to see current Pro Bono Opportunities with details about each project, who can apply and the deadlines for these applications. You can also subscribe to the CAJ newsletter to get weekly updates about pro bono opportunities.