The School of Law’s Community Engagement (pro bono) opportunities are open to all students within the School, and allow you to put into practice the knowledge and skills you’ve developed throughout your studies. The School has a long history of providing students with such opportunities, which have won many national and University awards.
However, the vast majority of the opportunities involve volunteers physically going into the community, so COVID-19 has had an impact upon the range of activities we are able offer in the 2020/21 academic year. Where we can, we have adapted the projects to allow for remote volunteering, or are working with the relevant organisations to ensure volunteer’s safety if volunteering in person.
Outlined below are the community engagement opportunities which you can get involved in during 2020/21.
Welfare Appeals and Tribunal Clinic
This project, began in September 2018, is an opportunity to work directly with clients, in collaboration with Chapeltown Citizens Advice. You will work with a Welfare Rights Appeals Worker to support their clients who are navigating the Welfare Benefits system and appealing a decision which has been made about their Welfare Benefits application. Students will observe and participate in interviews between the Welfare Rights Appeals Worker and clients and support clients to prepare for their Tribunal Hearing with the help the Welfare Rights Appeals Worker.
Volunteers are guaranteed two days volunteering in the Chapeltown Citizens Advice Clinic, along with the opportunity to attend a Welfare Rights Tribunal as part of this project. This opportunity is open to all years and recruitment times vary depending on year of study. There is opportunity to volunteer for this project in academic year and/or over the summer months.
Leea (Welfare Rights Appeals Worker) has been an inspiration – I believe that this project and ones like it should be essential for people pursuing a law degree and career. It has opened my eyes to the range of ways you can practice law and how it can be used.
Support Through Court (Formerly PSU)
This is an opportunity to work directly with clients. Based in Leeds Combined Court Centre, Support Through Court volunteers provide practical and emotional support to litigants in person (i.e. people representing themselves) in civil and family court proceedings. This is a great opportunity for those wishing to work with clients in any sector, including the criminal justice sector, and is open to students in second year or above. There is also the opportunity to begin volunteering in this project over the summer months in addition to the academic year.
I enjoyed working with clients. Having met so many individuals with so many stories, it shows just how important a service like the STC is. It makes me feel privileged to be a part of such an important service for the community.
Cerebra Pro Bono Research Programme
The Cerebra Pro Bono Research Programme is an opportunity for School of Law students (and, in some cases, students outside of the School), to be involved in research which helps to benefit the lives of disabled children and their families. It is open to students in their first year and above and no prior legal knowledge is required.
Cerebra is a children’s charity concerned with improving the lives of children with neurological conditions and their families. The charity has endowed a Research Chair at the School of Law to help families overcome commonly occurring legal problems that they encounter when seeking to access their legal entitlements.
The research for 2020-21 will follow-on from last year’s report on ‘Unlawful Restrictions on the Rights of Disabled Children with Autism to Social Care Needs Assessments’. A qualitative survey of parent/carer partnership NGOs (England and Wales) concerning their experiences of the assessment process will be carried out over summer 2020, prior to students joining the programme.
Student volunteers will undertake a structured review of the data resulting from this survey, as well as follow up research of local authorities’ protocols about what exactly local authorities do when assessing disabled children
The programme produces reports which are used to raise awareness and bring about practical change in the law and public policy and practices.
The research programme usually commences in October and is open to first year students and above from across the University. Final reports are published the following Spring term.
The sense of accomplishment I had after the project was immense. I felt very grateful that I was able to provide help to people who need it, that I may have a contribution to make a much-needed change.
StreetLaw aims to promote understanding about legal rights and responsibilities to individuals who may not otherwise have access to such knowledge. This project offers you the opportunity to engage with the local community, perfect your legal research and workshop facilitation skills and gain valuable experience in preparation for work in the legal or criminal justice profession.
Students work in small groups to research, design and deliver two interactive workshops covering a series of legal related topics with the support of the University’s Educational Engagement team and a practising lawyer. The workshops take place in local schools and colleges. Previous topics have included the Gender Pay Gap, Social Media Data Protection, Smishing and Employment Rights. This project is open to students in all years of study.
As a first year law student, I truly enjoyed the fact that I was able to utilize my (relatively little) knowledge of the law in a way that was benefiting the community around me. I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being useful in some sense, especially considering that when I first started my degree I did not feel I had much to offer this early on in my legal academic career. The experience I had with StreetLaw is one that I will definitely seek to consistently repeat with various community engagement and pro bono work in the future.
Student volunteers assist clients at the Migrant Support Drop-In service, including a range of tasks related to immigration advice and information or broader support needs such as education, housing or welfare particularly to asylum seekers and refugees.
I have really enjoyed the amount of responsibility we are trusted with when volunteering, we are fully involved with appointments and are trusted with helping individuals fill in forms without much or any supervision. I genuinely feel like I have learnt a lot about the law in this area.