If you have the ambition to work in the legal sector, at some point throughout your journey you will have heard about, or carried out, pro bono work which is a form of solicitor work experience. Here, both lawyers and law students give up their time to volunteer to help those needing legal assistance, who may struggle to access this necessary support.
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Undoubtedly, pro bono work is beneficial in a number of ways. Especially in such a fiercely competitive sector, it’s extremely important to maximise your chances and therefore grab any opportunities that may arise. Pro bono is a way to give yourself that competitive edge over your peers, in order to make yourself stand out.
Here are five ways in which pro bono allows you to do so:
In a general sense, partaking in pro bono work shows a potential employer that you are committed and passionate about helping clients. Without question, this is an integral aspect to a career in law, no matter which area you wish to specialise in. In addition to this, employers will see it as confirmation that you are serious about your legal studies as it shows commitment to learning and developing.
More specifically, having pro bono experience which is relevant to your desired career may help you realise your ambitions or figure out if that particular area of law is right for you. For instance, students wishing to work in criminal law may find that volunteering with young offenders may be looked upon favourably by potential future employers.
By undertaking significant pro bono work, it will allow you to make a long lasting impression in a fiercely competitive job market as you can list personal client contact, interviewing, research and drafting skills on your CV. It will also help with obtaining a training contract or pupillage. Essentially, the more relevant experience you have, the higher the chance of catching the employer’s attention.
To offer an example, 80% of HR specialists at many of the top law firms are most impressed by CVs that show evidence of commitment to pro bono work. This ranks pro bono higher than other additional qualifications and paralegal experience. Perhaps, this is because pro bono aids you in more ways than other experiences as it allows you to develop a higher number of relevant skills for the legal environment.
Furthermore, volunteering in such a way gives you a chance to network and build legal contacts that can also help with your career progression, which may well be of use to you in the future.
Pro bono work has a certain educational benefit to you as a law or non-law student. At university you may find that you are already developing your legal knowledge, however participating in pro bono work will give you a chance to apply that knowledge in a practical sense and give you exposure to real life legal scenarios. This is because individuals can gain more practice in identifying legal issues, distinguishing amongst legitimate and non-legitimate legal claims, interacting with clients as well as advising them through legal processes.
Taking part in pro bono enables students to engage in practical experiences, while also being exposed to what their future occupation may bring. Inevitably, this helps you to adapt to the climate of pro bono work, which is something that would be of great value when pursuing a career as a barrister or solicitor in the future.
Through pro bono, you can gain numerous transferable skills, which are considered a necessity in the legal world of work. It gives volunteers the opportunity to experience various areas of law and acquire these transferable skills including delegation, time management, teamwork, open-mindedness, organisation and other vital characteristics and values that make you attractive to employers. You will also build confidence and will get the chance to sharpen your leadership skills if you ever take the lead on a project.
For instance, volunteers participating in law clinics can develop their skills in legal writing and drafting, enhance their interview skills and complete practical legal research. It is only when you are faced with client interaction that you can understand your legal knowledge to its depth and therefore it can be fully called upon and developed.
All of these skills can be discussed in detail in future applications and interviews, which will allow you to stand out from other candidates.
While pro bono work has its obvious career benefits, it also adds to your own personal development. Arguably, the most important reason to do pro bono work is to provide a benefit to the community, that might otherwise not be available to those in need of legal assistance. The extra support you can offer to community groups, legal clinics, charities and individuals can often be what makes a difference in the long term. Without your input, they may not be able to obtain any additional support.
Helping a client or organisation through a complicated legal process is one of the most rewarding experiences a future lawyer can be involved in. This is because a key part of being a lawyer is client satisfaction and here you can develop this in the most genuine way. If you are passionate about helping your clients, this will easily come across to employers during your interviews.
Overall, every aspiring lawyer should aim to carry out pro bono work at some point on their legal journey.
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Author: Tvara Shah
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