UCL Centre for Access to Justice celebrates National Pro Bono Week
4 November 2019
Pro Bono Week provides an opportunity to encourage and recognise the voluntary contribution of lawyers and law students in giving free legal help to those in need.
National Pro Bono Week celebrates the work of lawyers and law students who volunteer their time and offer their skills for free to individuals and organisations who could not otherwise access legal advice.
The purpose of the week, as stated by The Law Society, is to:
- Encourage members of the legal profession and law students to volunteer their time
- Celebrate pro bono work and its achievements
- Promote collaboration, best practice and skills sharing
- Increase awareness of pro bono services
- Make sure pro bono services are used efficiently.
Each year at UCL Laws, between 150 and 200 students take part in pro bono projects and activities coordinated by the UCL Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ). Aiming to meet a broad range of community needs, projects are organised along a spectrum of activities ranging from assisting in provision of free legal advice at the UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic or through the Volunteering Scheme with Pro Bono Community to bringing human rights to life in local secondary schools as part of our Grassroots Human Rights Project. Collaboration also plays an important role in the Centre’s pro bono work, with projects including partnerships with Migrants Organise, Kensington & Chelsea CAB, and IntoUniversity.
Niki Hadjivasiliou, UCL Laws LLM student (2018-2019), reflected on her time spent volunteering with Migrants Organise, stating:
I chose to undertake a pro bono project as part of my studies, because giving back to the community is something I have always been interested in and I believe to be very important. What I enjoyed the most about my internship at Migrants Organise was getting to meet all these amazing clients and working to make their daily lives just a bit happier and safer.
Shiva Riahi, Head of Projects at the UCL Centre for Access to Justice noted:
In times when legal advice has become more and more difficult to access, pro bono work has become increasingly important to ensuring individuals are able to access justice. To the Pro Bono Programme at UCL Laws, we encourage our students to embed themselves in the local community, working closely to support the organisations who provide invaluable pro bono services that, that for many individuals, can mean the difference between safe housing and homelessness.
At UCL Laws, students are also encouraged to take the lead in coordinating and developing their own initiatives. Working closely with the Centre for Access to Justice, the CAJ Student Pro Bono Committee aims to foster a vibrant community of students committed to pro bono through fundraising activities, events, and student engagement.
Natalie Chu, Executive Chair of the UCL CAJ Student Pro Bono Committee added:
It’s vital to get students interested in pro bono because it is one of most meaningful ways through which students get to witness the power of law in effecting change. They not only gain practical skills, but also are able to utilise them to help underserved communities. Students who engage in pro bono work often emerge with fresh new perspectives and a heightened interest in applying the law to advance pertinent social justice causes. Pro bono inspires students to work harder and is ultimately a great reminder to students of why they applied to law school in the first place!
About The UCL Centre for Access to Justice
At UCL Laws, pro bono encompasses a wide range of voluntary opportunities that use the law and legal knowledge as an effective tool for social change. The CAJ provides Faculty-level oversight and management of the UCL Laws Pro Bono Programme, facilitating a broad range of projects for UCL students to get involved in. These range from student-led projects to others organised with partner organisations or otherwise wholly administered and run by the CAJ.