This article was written in support of National Pro Bono Week, running from 2–6 November 2015.
National Pro Bono Week is a nationwide campaign to celebrate the range and impact of voluntary free legal services provided by the legal profession. Support the campaign on Twitter using #NPBW2015 and #WeDoProBono
What is your position and what do you do on a day to day basis?
I am the Pro Bono Coordinator at the University of Law in Bristol. My remit in this role is to encourage, support and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate law students partaking in appropriate pro bono activities. Activities range from facilitating legal workshops in schools to providing advice on a range of social welfare issues at a homeless charity. Hopefully this will help students develop essential legal skills and client care but also will demonstrate to them the importance of lawyers engaging in pro bono advice and assistance and appreciating that there is a real need for access to justice for many vulnerable people in society.
How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?
I have been a practicing criminal defence lawyer for 15 years and in 2011 I was asked to be a solicitor mentor for students at a local university. I enjoyed the experience of mentoring and supporting the students and so was attracted to this role. I thoroughly enjoy working with the next generation of aspiring lawyers and hope to cement in their minds the positive ethos of pro bono work prior to them embarking on their careers.
What are the people you wok for like?
I sometimes have to pinch myself at how lucky I am to work with such amazing colleagues; both in my criminal defence practice and at University of Law. They are all supportive, inspiring and caring individuals to work alongside. I appreciate that this situation is a fortunate one but sometimes learning how to work in a department with more difficult colleagues is part of a career path and a good learning experience.
What is the best part and worst part of the day for you?
The best part of my day is seeing the students develop and gain confidence in their abilities via the pro bono work that they engage in. The worst part of my day is undoubtedly being sat in the Bristol commuter traffic.
What adjectives describe you best?
"A people person".
Even 17 years ago I was warned against entering a career in legal aid and social welfare law but i was committed to giving the individual a voice and the legal tools necessary to gain justice. I really enjoy client contact and have no regrets.
What keeps you motivated?
Tea or Coffee?
White tea by the gallon. Being a lawyer means being prepared for long working days and many trips to the kettle!
What would you say to anyone talking of a career in your field?
The government's slashing of legal aid is both depressing and alarming; it leaves many members of society vulnerable and without any hope of access to justice. Whilst pro bono assistance and advice can't replace legal aid, lawyers give an amazing amount of invaluable pro bono advice and it is a great area of our profession to be involved with. My work is varied, interesting and brings me into contact with lawyers from a variety of practice areas and I would highly recommend it.
What songs do you listen to most?
I generally can listen to the whole of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on a morning whilst being stuck in the Bristol traffic gridlock!
How do you enjoy time outside work?
Children and family keep me sane. My children are still young enough to want to spend their time with me!
If you could change one thing about the justice system what would it be?
For the government to acknowledge and support those giving quality essential legal advice. The criminal duty contracts roll out last week was a low point for our justice system.