Charley, a recent LLB graduate, talks about her pro bono volunteering experiences and her participation in co-curricular activities whilst at Reading.
Becoming a student volunteer
In her first year, Charley won the academic prize for the best overall performance in her year group, this resulted in getting a day's work experience with Shoosmiths. Whilst on work experience, Charley learnt about the CommuniCare Legal Clinic, one of the main pro bono activities that the School of Law helps to co-ordinate in partnership with Shoosmiths and CommuniCare. Charley applied, and subsequently became a student volunteer.
"It's been really helpful because it prepared me for real life."
Although supervised, you are given responsibility
"Even though it's all under supervision by lawyers from Shoosmiths, you're given a lot of responsibility, so it's very realistic. For example, you have to prepare for meetings with the client, whom you then interact with as if they were your client, so you get to practice your communication and client interviewing skills."
"It also helps you to develop adaptability, because you obviously prepare for things but the client always tells you different things in the meeting. Working with a different solicitor each time I've been at the clinic has also been good because I've been able to see different types of client communications and the way the solicitors work with clients, which has then allowed me to decide the strategies that I want to take with clients."
Stepping out of your bubble to gain experience
Charley has also been involved with the Thames Valley Community Court, which is about providing an alternative for children who have committed minor offences outside of the criminal justice system. This initiative is organised by a group of students, with the Thames Valley police, and takes place once a week at the School of Law.
"Participating in the Community Court has been really good because it has allowed me to practice my advocacy skills and help me explore crime as an area of law, which I would perhaps want to practice in. It's also been good because it has involved interacting with different types of clients, so that has really opened up my eyes. Whereas CommuniCare Legal Clinic is all about adults, the Community Court is all about children."
"Also, having been at school and then at university, I've lived in a bit of a bubble, so this experience has exposed me to what other people go through, and made me more aware of what goes on outside the bubble of being a law student. That required me to work on how best to communicate with different clients, and it has also improved my public speaking."
Charley also participated in a number of co-curricular activities, including the Boyes Turner Negotiation Competition. After going through several rounds, her partner and she won the competition and, as a result, won a vacation scheme to undertake work experience at Boyes Turner. She also took part in the Osborne Clarke Mooting competition.
"I would really recommend getting involved in different activities. It gives you something to talk about in work experience interviews, which has definitely helped."
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