When I first joined Pinsent Masons as an Apprentice Paralegal just over a year ago, I was really interested in the firm’s pro bono and responsible business initiatives. I was eager to make the most out of my apprenticeship, gain as many skills as possible, and get exposure to different areas of law.
At Pinsent Masons, all colleagues are encouraged to spend 25 hours per person each year for client driven, skills-based volunteering designed to make social impact within our local and global communities. Although there was a wide range of pro bono projects to choose from, I was particularly drawn to the Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) programme which provides free legal support to undocumented children, young people, and families in the UK, and campaigns for systematic change to ensure that all children are safe and able to thrive, regardless of their immigration status. I was slightly worried when I first joined the KIND initiative, as I had very limited legal knowledge. However, the training and support provided by the charity was great which helped me quickly gain confidence and learn new skills.
Participating in this pro bono initiative has been great for developing skills which have benefitted me throughout my apprenticeship, such as interpersonal skills and problem solving. A standout benefit for me was being the point of contact for the client throughout my first KIND case. This experience was particularly valuable as I hadn’t had much client contact before; this has later helped me when I have been the point of contact for major projects in my day-to-day job.
For my first KIND case, I achieved a positive outcome for two siblings. We then informed the parents that their children were officially British citizens which was very rewarding as it lifted a huge weight off their shoulders. It also means that their children can gain access to all the opportunities they wish to pursue as they grow into adults. I have now completed my second case and we are waiting for a decision from the Home Office.
Additionally, I have participated in the firm’s Right to Write programme which supports children in a local primary school who need extra help with their writing skills. Every few weeks, I visit the school with a few colleagues to assist one or two children with writing exercises from the workbook or any piece of writing they choose.
Getting involved in these initiatives inspired me to take on the role of Pro Bono Champion which means actively promoting the pro bono programme and contributing to the overall strategy for pro bono at the firm. As a result of taking on this role, I join bi-monthly catch-up meetings and have spoken on a pro bono panel to share my experiences with KIND. This has enabled me to work with many people across the business with whom I may not have had the opportunity to work otherwise.
I have been able to maintain a good balance between my apprenticeship studies, day-to-day work, and responsible business activities. The team is very understanding and supportive if I need to reschedule a school visit or take a step back from my pro bono case if I have very limited availability. Likewise, if I have some downtime, pro bono work has been a great thing to get stuck into!