In addition to the altruistic benefits of being a student pro bono volunteer, you will also be adding to and developing your personal and professional skills.
Participating in pro bono work can give you experience in, and exposure to, a wide variety of expertise which is often picked up on by legal and graduate recruiters.
Depending on what pro bono activity you participate in, you can develop transferable skills in the following areas:
1. Client Interaction
Participating in pro bono work can often give you valuable experience in interacting with clients, an opportunity which many students only get once they have qualified.
Learning how to respond to client needs, deal with difficult clients and manage client expectations are all valuable attributes for future lawyers.
2. Interview Skills
Learning how to structure an interview and control interactions with clients is an incredibly sought after skill.
Asking the correct questions in order to get all the information you need to advise a client will demonstrate your ability to manage exchanges with clients.
3. Advocacy Skills
Some pro bono placements allow you to speak on behalf of the client.
Learning how to speak and present yourself in an appropriate manner is an important skill but not one necessarily built into your standard training.
4. Recognising Legal Issues
Whether you’re interacting with clients directly or looking over client documents, pro bono work provides students with the opportunity to hone their skills in identifying relevant legal issues.
Dealing with real client issues will provide you with the challenge of differentiating problems raised by clients from underlying legal issues.
5. Interaction With Professionals
Increasing your exposure to legal professionals is beneficial not only in terms of making connections and networking but also increasing your understanding of the working lives of lawyers.
6. Researching Legal Issues
Once a legal issue has been identified, effectively researching the area of law is incredibly important.
Identifying relevant information and considering its application to a client’s problem is a vital skill constantly used in any legal career.
7. Drafting Advice
Pro bono offers students the chance to take an active role in drafting legal advice in connection with real legal issues.
Not only will you get experience in applying the law in a practical way, you will also learn how to present a legal position in a manner comprehensible to clients.
Most disputes in which lawyers are involved in do not end up in the courts. Instead they are settled by way of some form of compromise between the parties – a negotiated agreement.
Pro bono offers students the opportunity to identify the principles of negotiation and to acquire practical negotiation skills.
9. Practical Application & Understanding Of The Law
Learning the law is often based in academics and so can sometimes be very conceptual. Being involved in pro bono work allows you to put legal theory into a practical context.
Practical application allows you to visualise legal problems pragmatically and gives you experience in advocating client interests.
10. Explore Different Areas Of Law
Pro bono enables students to engage with areas of law they otherwise may not have access to.
Training sessions and professional resources are usually provided for volunteers at a range of organisations. This means you will not only be expanding your skill set but also widening your exposure to different practice areas.
In addition to developing practical skills, participating in a pro bono project gives you the opportunity to develop softer skills such as leadership and teamwork.