Law schools neglect pro bono work for students

The top law schools in the UK are failing to offer their students the chance to do pro bono work.

Renowned institutions such as Oxford University and Cardiff Law School are making little or no provision for clinical pro bono programmes for their students, a survey by The Lawyer’s sister title Lawyer 2B has found.

Of 20 universities and legal education providers, the research found that the majority do not run pro bono activities for their students.
College of Law director of pro bono Richard Grimes said he believed that a wider survey would show that only a quarter of all institutions do.

Cost and liability issues were some of the reasons cited for the lack of activity, while others cast doubt on whether students were actually concerned about pro bono.

Professor Stephen Shute of Birmingham University, which does not run a pro bono programme, said: “I would question to what extent undergraduates have the time, inclination and experience to offer meaningful advice. Once they are qualified they seem to begin the traditional pro bono approach.”

However, Grimes said: “We had some trainees in from a big law firm. They’d never met a client before and yet they were in the second year of their training contracts. We got them working with tenants at a tribunal round the corner. You could see from the look on their faces that all of a sudden law meant something.”

Meanwhile, BPP Law School has appointed its first full-time pro bono director to run its new in-house legal advice centre. Kara Irwin joins from the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, where she worked as a legal specialist on various projects in southern Africa.

The latest edition of Lawyer 2B is out now.

Which institutions organise pro bono opportunities for students?
Yes No*
BPP Law School Birmingham University
City University Bournemouth University
College of Law Brunel University
De Montfort University Cardiff Law School
Kent University Durham University
Northumbria University Essex University
Nottingham Law School Keele University
Manchester University London School of Economics
  Oxford Institute of Legal Practice
  Oxford University
  Reading University
  Warwick University
*Education providers were asked whether they had implemented formal pro bono programmes. This list excludes pro bono programmes implemented by students independently of their education provider, for example at Warwick.
Source: Lawyer 2B