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Everything you need to know about pro bono: An interview with Esther Prasadam

Esther Prasadam is studying the LPC LLM with us at our Nottingham campus. Throughout her studies, she’s gained various work experience and carried out pro bono work. We caught up with Esther to discuss what she learned during her pro bono experience and how it has helped her future legal career.

By Cara Fielder. Published 31 May.

Pro bono work is an absolute must and there is no better time to get started than when you are studying. The work you undertake gives you an insight into the profession and often a greater understanding of what you are studying. It can be a fantastic way to expand your legal network, working with and meeting like-minded individuals and working to each other’s strengths

Pro bono work is legal advice or representation provided to individuals, charities, businesses or community groups, free of charge by legal professionals. Pro bono work at The University of Law spans many practice areas. At Nottingham, I was involved in housing and employment law legal advice clinics offering support to those across the East Midlands who were unable to access legal support.

Coming from a non-law background, it was important to me to gain real practice experience. As this can be hard, things like the Legal Advice Clinic enabled me to gain and develop valuable skills. These included letter writing, conducting client interviews, research, team project work and time management. The pro bono work I undertook gave me a real insight into areas of law that interested me and enabled me to approach my studies with a new understanding.

Pro bono work was also personally rewarding. I took pride in producing clear and coherent advice and knowing that my team’s work helped someone who was struggling.

Undertaking pro bono work became an excellent talking point for training contract interviews. My experiences enabled me to show my passion for the law and help others with real examples of work I had produced.

Getting involved in pro bono work was an excellent way to expand my legal network. Working with organisations like the Midlands Employment Rights Advice Line (MERAL) allows students to connect and work with local solicitors from national firms, gaining further insight into the profession.

A lot of the pro bono work I undertook was done remotely during COVID-19 through the University Nottingham Campus. I was able to work with two legal advice clinics, MERAL and Streetlaw, as well as create my own pro bono initiative with other students during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

During legal advice clinics, students create a telephone plan and conduct a telephone interview with the client while taking notes to gain as much information as possible. Students then research the matter and write a formal letter of advice which is sent to the client.

During my first legal work experience, I was instructed by a partner to study a client matter and draft a letter to the client explaining the next steps of her divorce and the court process from the first appointment to the final hearing. I had not yet studied family law and the area was completely new. I reviewed the file and began research. When it came to drafting the letter, I was able to use the skills I gained from working at The University of Law’s Legal Advice Clinic. This made formatting the letter and writing in an appropriate style much easier, as I was able to set a structure and tone to make the process clear.

The letter was reviewed by the partner who was so pleased. The letter was posted to the client that day with no changes made. I was also invited to attend court with the partner later in the year to see the case through. 

I have had the opportunity to write several letters of advice during my pro bono work. The skills I have gained from this are invaluable and have enabled me to produce high level work during work experience and vacation schemes.

Pro bono work also allows you to develop the vital skills needed for a career in law. I would encourage anyone to be open minded and confident in their approach to pro bono and always ask for help and learn from their colleagues and supervising solicitors.

I chose to study at The University of Law because it offered courses that aim to prepare students for practice. This is not only through course content and being taught by professionals but through opportunities given to students. Law is often seen as a career where ‘it is who you know’ and coming to law without connections can be daunting. However, the courses, employability, pro bono opportunities and vast Alumni Network ensure that nothing stands in a student’s way of forging strong relationships, connections and experiences across the profession. 

 

 

Find out more about the pro bono opportunities open to you when you study with us.