Agree and Close
6th November, 2017
As it is National Pro Bono Week, I decided to share with you my experience of volunteering at Norfolk Community Law Service (“NCLS”). NCLS is a registered charity providing a range of free, independent legal advice services including Employment, Family, General and Domestic Abuse in Norwich, Cromer and Great Yarmouth. They also provide free Debt and Welfare Benefits advice and representation, as well as advice to EEA Nationals around their residency status and entitlements and they run a Family Court Support Service for separated parents in dispute over child contact who would otherwise have to represent themselves. They currently have 17 members of staff and 130 volunteers including 65 solicitors and 50 law students.
As a history graduate with little comprehension of the Law in an academic, or practical sense, volunteering at NCLS proved to be an invaluable experience. Primarily I helped out on the reception. This involved greeting clients, listening to their queries, analysing them, and succinctly presenting this information to the volunteer solicitors. This really helped me to grasp legal terms and concepts. Similarly it provided me with a different perspective on Law, as I saw the real-life impact it has on clients.
I was also fortunate to observe client meetings, and to see how a solicitor controls and steers an interview, gradually narrowing in on the legal issue at hand. This prepared me for the Interviewing assessment on the LPC, as I could call upon techniques utilised by the various solicitors I witnessed during my 8 months at NCLS. Moreover, I also met a number of my future LPC colleagues whilst volunteering at NCLS, so it was great to see some familiar faces on day 1 of the LPC course.
Volunteering is a great way to develop skills such as communication, adaptability and problem solving. These skills are tested during your training contract so it is really useful to have honed them whilst volunteering. What’s more, you also learn vital office based skills, most crucially that everyone in the team really appreciates a regular cup of tea!
Pro-Bono work also helps you to stand out from the crowd when applying for a training contract. In my application, and interview at Howes Percival I talked about my time at NCLS, and how that experience galvanized my interest in becoming a solicitor. In a highly competitive market, volunteering can set you apart from other applicants with similar grades.
Overall I can’t speak highly enough of charities such as NCLS, you make new friends, develop life skills, and most importantly give something back.