City solicitors have spoken of the benefits to be gained from volunteering at legal advice clinics in one of several events to mark Pro Bono Week.
The In House Pro Bono Group organised a ‘legal clinic 101’ event on Monday where solicitors from international firm Simmons & Simmons and the legal counsel at global investment manager Schroders shared practical tips.
Charlotte Rendle, a supervising associate in Simmons’ financial services regulatory team, has been volunteering at Battersea Legal Advice Clinic since she was a trainee.
She said: ‘As a more junior lawyer, I found it really helped to build my skills and confidence. Especially when you’re a trainee, you might not get as much client contact as you want to as a private practice lawyer, or it takes time to build confidence.’
At the clinic, she said, ‘you have an opportunity to think on your feet, you get used to advising then and there on matters you might not necessarily be familiar with… It helps build that confidence which you can bring back into practice when you go back into the firm the next day.'
Volunteering at the clinic also developed research skills, Rendle added. ‘I’m a financial regulation lawyer. It’s not often people are coming to a pro bono clinic looking for advice on MiFID [Markets in Financial Instruments Directive]. There are areas where I’m not familiar where I need to do research and get confidence advising on those matters.’
Tim Boyce, head of Simmons’ contentious regulatory, crime and competition team, volunteers at Bristol Law Centre’s disputes clinic. Volunteering at a clinic ‘provides a slightly more immediate sense of satisfaction that sometimes can escape us when we’re advising on big, complex, lengthy matters,’ he told the event.
Joshua Smith, legal counsel in the investments team at Schroders, has volunteered at several legal advice clinics, including Battersea, City University, Islington and Bethnal Green.
He said: ‘Whether you’re in private practice doing doc review or drafting board minutes, or in-house doing a lot of flow work, sometimes the day can be a bit draining, perhaps you haven't been pushed in the ways you would have liked, or deployed the skills you would have liked. Having the legal advice clinic at the end of a day is a great way to deploy that extra bit of resource you have got kicking around in your brain.’
He added: ‘For those looking to transition into in-house, there is a very large focus on your ability to work with others, to understand different stakeholders, to think on your feet. It’s quite hard to demonstrate those sorts of skills when being interviewed, for example. If you’ve got something like legal advice clinic experience you can draw from that. It’s a very good way to develop a lot of other skills.’