Firms’ pro bono work proves central to students’ selection

Law firms’ and chambers’ commitment to pro bono is a major lure in attracting the best students, according to a new survey. Some 2,140 students at the College of Law took part in major new research, which sounded out students on their views about their future careers.

The survey found that around three-quarters of the college’s students would be influenced by an employer’s commitment to pro bono, at least to some extent. Just over half of those thought they would undertake some legal aid or pro bono work.

Jade Campbell is a 21-year-old student studying for the BVC at the college. She believes pro bono will be an important part of her future career, as well as being one of the main reasons for choosing where she studied. “A major part of me wanting to come to the College of Law was because of the large pro bono unit,” she says. “It’s something that’s appealed to me since I was at university. I’ve done voluntary work in the past, but nothing with a legal emphasis.”

The college’s research found that female students were more likely to be influenced by an employer’s commitment to pro bono and more likely to do legal aid work than their male counterparts.

Campbell volunteers at the college’s legal advice centre and has represented housing clients before the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. “I’ve really enjoyed it because it brings to life what I’ll be doing in my career at the bar,” she comments. “It’s certainly better than sitting in the class doing role plays. It reinforces why I’m doing what I’m doing – because at the end of the day, I’ll be helping people with real problems.”

Campbell hopes to specialise in civil litigation, actions against the police, human rights and professional negligence.

Andrew Kerr, a 24-year-old student barrister at the College of Law, agrees that his experience at the college’s legal advice clinic will stand him in good stead in his future career. He is keeping an open mind as to which area of law he wants to specialise in.

The pro bono work that Kerr undertakes represents an opportunity to put the skills that students learn while on the BVC into practice, he says.

“I think it depends totally upon which chambers you’re going to, because some of them place a strong emphasis on pro bono,” Kerr replies. “For others it’s not so much of an issue and it’s more of an individual decision. It would be great to become more involved, but I think for the initial few years I’ll be establishing myself as a fee-earner. That’s going to be the main emphasis.”