Student Pro Bono In Practice

Anna McCormack, Chief Officer of the University of Leicester Pro Bono Committee, pro bono volunteer and winner of the LawWorks & Attorney General’s award for Best Contribution by an Individual Law Student, shares her experience of volunteering.

The University of Leicester Student Pro Bono Group run several projects that law students can apply to volunteer for. These include: The Legal Advice Clinic; The Miscarriages of Justice Team: The Street Law Team; The Law Without Borders Team; Project LIGHT; Crime Club; Amicus Charity and the Immigration and Asylum Project Clinic.

LawWorks was delighted to welcome 2 new Pro Bono Clinics onto the LawWorks Clinics Network in 2016/17:

  • Project LIGHT (providing healthcare and legal support to homeless people in Leicester)
  • Immigration and Asylum Project Clinic’ (striving to legally support the community with immigration and asylum issues).

These two clinics join the already well-established, student led and managed, ‘Legal Advice Clinic’ (which helps students to develop networking and client related skills for the workplace through their Pro Bono work at the Legal Advice Clinic). All three clinics enjoy the full benefits of belonging to the LawWorks Clinics Network. 

Overseeing all of this activity and managing the Student Pro Bono Group is an elected ‘Chief Officer’. In the past academic year 2016 – 2017, this role was taken on by Anna McCormack who in 2017, for her exceptional contribution to Pro Bono advice, was awarded ‘Best Contribution by an Individual Student’ in the annual LawWorks & Attorney General Student Awards.

You can read her story here..

Why did you first decide to volunteer?

I have always been enthusiastic about volunteering. I began my studies in Law at the University of Leicester in September 2014 and was determined to get involved in as many activities as possible.  Volunteering for our (uniquely) student-led Pro Bono Society interested me immediately. The Society ran 3 Projects, namely the Street Law Project, the Miscarriages of Justice Project and the Legal Advice Clinic. I applied and was successfully recruited onto the Miscarriages of Justice Project as a researcher. My role was to look into our client’s case and piece together any missing evidence, potential procedural misconduct or other information which could potentially have led to our client being wrongfully incarcerated. What was fantastic about participating in Pro Bono work was how rewarding it was and how it helped me gain and develop key skills as a budding lawyer. I’ve made life-long friends and we all have equally important roles to play in enabling access to justice throughout the community. 

In my second year I was successfully appointed the Secretary of the Pro Bono Society and was able to make a real impact on how the Society ran and what opportunities would be made available for our students. I developed our first website, set up 2 new projects (Project LIGHT and Litigants in Person Project),  and recruited their respective Directors, helped developed 2 other projects over the summer, developed a new Pro Bono Magazine, “Pro Bona Fide” and put on over 75 events! It was overall a very successful year. The society recruits over 250 student volunteers in Pro Bono work at the University of Leicester, this is invaluable in aiding those students’ development and enhancing their overall learning experience and is also an essential support for the local community in desperate need of access to justice.

What have you gained from the experience?

I have gained an enormous amount and  would encourage anyone to take part in Pro Bono work. Pro Bono at the University of Leicester is particularly special as it’s completely student-led, hence students truly invest their time and efforts into making it the best Society it can be. I have gained a number of skills at University and now have a better understanding of how the law operates in the “real-world”. I have furthered my knowledge on the application of the law rather than just having an in depth understanding into the theoretical aspects of it.  

The training that the Society arranges, tailored to each of the projects, is essential in ensuring that all of our student volunteers are fully equipped and prepared for the year of work ahead within the Society. Now that we have collaborated with Law Works  with 3 of our clinics on the network, we have even more opportunities to ensure that all students that participate in Pro Bono work at the University of Leicester gain skills and experience beyond the normal LLB syllabus. Even the most trivial of tasks such as filling out forms to host events or submitting various grant funding applications came with a number of challenges. I have not only gained important skills but have also gained from the opportunity to help others. As a result of all of the work that we do in Pro Bono, we are providing individuals with a last opportunity to gain legal support and guidance.

Does any particular event/experience of helping someone or making a difference stand out for you?

I organized an event  to celebrate all  the hard work put into the Society by our student volunteers. The event was named the Pro Bono Commemoration Evening and was an extremely special night for me. It stood out as my favorite experience over the entire 3 years because it enabled the Society to reflect on all of our achievements and the fantastic difference we have made to both the student population and wider community. We were able to thank all the professionals who currently help us with our activities, the academics who give so much of their time to support us and to show appreciation for all of the hard work and dedication demonstrated by our student volunteers. I truly admire each and every member of the Committee this year for making Pro Bono what it is today..

What has winning the LawWorks & AG student award meant for you?

I was absolutely thrilled to have even been shortlisted for the Award but to win was a complete shock. It was such a fantastic event and I was lucky enough to be accompanied by members of the Pro Bono Committee, who have been an invaluable source of support to me throughout the year, and the Pro Bono Society’s 2 Academic Advisors, who have additionally been a constant source of support. It means a lot to have been recognized for the work that I have put into Pro Bono at the University of Leicester and I hope that I can go on to inspire other students, in a similar position to me, to go out and make a difference. I have been able to make a real difference to the Law School, the student experience at Leicester and those in need within the Leicestershire Community and surrounding areas. When I received the award for Best Contribution by an Individual Student to Pro Bono from the Attorney General, I felt that this was a defining moment of all of the great things that I could achieve in the future and, hopefully, inspire others to achieve in the years to come.

What next? What career plans do you have following university?

I have successfully completed my 3 years of study at the University of Leicester and will now go on to complete my LPC at BPP University in Cambridge. I have been offered a Training Contract with Howes Percival to commence in 2018 and hope to continue to complete Pro Bono work for the remainder of my legal career.