LawWorks ran two surveys - jointly with CLEO - between May and September 2020 for law schools throughout the UK, one for staff and one for students. It builds on the methodolody of our previous law schools reports (see: The LawWorks Law School Pro Bono and Clinics Report 2014.)
Key findings on the current state of student pro bono are that:
- Over 3,000 students took part in pro bono programmes over the 2019-20 academic year. We are confident that the number of students doing pro bono work is significantly more than captured by the survey.
- Of 78 law schools that responded to the survey, all but one offer pro bono opportunities and 90% of respondents said the range of their pro bono work had increased.
- 75% of respondent law schools said that their pro bono offer included generalist advice and/or generalist advice with casework; 68% said that they ran Streetlaw/public legal education (PLE) projects.
- Employment (79%), family (70%) and housing (67%) were the main areas of law covered by law school clinics.
- Partnership was much in evidence, with 72% saying they worked with private practice, 63% with local Citizens Advice and 45% with Law Centres.
- Whilst educational value, skills and employability ranked highly in both surveys as reasons for undertaking pro bono, so did social justice. Responses to our student survey evidenced a real enthusiasm for pro bono amongst students.
- 421 students responded to the student survey; the results demonstrated that for students pro bono is as much about helping others as it is about enhancing legal skills and employability.
- Covid-19 has had an impact on student pro bono but increasingly law schools and students are embracing new technology to adapt and develop their services and projects.
The 2020 findings show that pro bono has now become a mainstream part of legal education, as well as law schools’ wider community engagement. LawWorks’ first pro bono report in 2000 showed that only 41 per cent of respondent law schools reported they were offering or undertaking pro bono activity, compared with over 64 per cent in 2020.
The findings come at a critical time in the evolution of legal education, as regulatory and training requirements are overhauled. From next year in England and Wales, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will introduce the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which will include a requirement for work-based learning that can be undertaken in clinics. The survey’s findings suggest that law schools are ahead of the game, recognising the value of providing pro bono experience to students – both for the students’ legal education and for society at large.
See our Press Release.
More information is also available on our law schools pro bono page.