Support For Your Pro Bono Work
The Bar’s deep and longstanding tradition of pro bono publico work, as the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC QC said in an address to the UQ Pro Bono Centre, “a stark reflection of the public service which should characterize our professionalism”. Members of the Queensland Bar are frequently seen in the Federal Court, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal. But, it’s not always easy to fit pro bono briefs around other professional demands.
The Bar’s members can also be found engaged with and supporting the Universities and their students, often those latter-year students who are on the brink of filling the ranks of new practitioners. Judging moots; providing work experience opportunities; and speaking at student events are not unfamiliar entries in a barrister’s diary. Again, though, it can hard to find space in that diary for these contributions.
I want it to be easier for you to do both: easier for you to run a pro bono brief and to provide mentoring and experience to a law student at the same time. UQ’s Pro Bono Centre is the way to do it. The Centre has a group of pre-screened, suitable senior law students who are ready to provide research and assistance for your pro bono work.
First, grab a pro bono brief. Contact LawRight and make sure you are on their mailing list. Make sure you are on the list for pro bono criminal appeals in the Court of Appeal. Keep an eye out for Federal Court pro bono referrals. Contact a community legal service and see what they need help with.
Or, get involved in a pro bono law reform or research project. If you are on one of the Association’s Committees, kick off a research or law reform submission within your area of expertise.
Then, get in touch with the UQ Pro Bono Centre. Have a look at their website or contact the Centre’s Director directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want a general chat first, reach out to the BAQ’s nominee on the Centre’s Advisory Board – Matt Black at email@example.com.
The personal and broader benefits of doing pro bono work are well known, but why use the UQ Pro Bono Centre? I’ve distilled the answer into three points.
First, the students available to you through the UQ Pro Bono Centre are able to provide real assistance in your work. Their support enables you to leverage your time. The students can do things as simple as compiling briefs / e-briefs or bundles of authorities. They can draft chronologies or can index messy disclosure. They can take notes and fetch coffee during conferences. They can also deploy their education: find cases to support a legal proposition, trace the source of a poorly referenced legal point, find factually similar cases for comparison, prepare case-notes of the other side’s authorities to give you a head-start.
Second, having an enthusiastic law student ready to do the type of tasks outlined above can make it more attractive for a solicitors’ firm to get or stay engaged on a pro bono basis. Experience shows that, generally, running a pro bono brief is not feasible without an instructing solicitor; and, solicitors face the same demands on their time as we do. It’s one thing for a solicitor to put in some extra hours to get pro bono work done, but diverting the time of paid assistants or paralegals can be more difficult. Having a law student—or in big cases, students—available to helpreduces the paralegaldemands on the firm’s resources and enables the solicitor to be more confident in committing to a pro bono matter.
Third, this is an opportunity for you to mentor and inspire a law student. A student who will soon be joining the profession and who will be all the more ready to do so because of their experience with you. That’s good for the student. It’s good for the Bar’s overall standing. And it’s good for the profession generally.
In short, if you are running a pro bono brief or working on a law reform submission I don’t want you doing it alone. I want you to have some help from a law student who has been screened by the UQ Pro Bono Centre and given training on confidentiality and conflicts. If you’re helping—or want to help—the community, there’s help for you to do that. Contact the UQ Pro Bono Centre via their website or firstname.lastname@example.org.