Ronald Leung of Dentons talks about taking part in the London Young Lawyers Group Pro Bono Awareness Month.
What is the name of the scheme which you participate in and what does it entail?
I took part in the London Young Lawyers Group (LYLG) Pro Bono Awareness Month in April 2017. It was an initiative to encourage young lawyers and law students to participate in pro bono projects across London throughout the month, and to hopefully inspire long-term volunteering relationships. The LYLG hoped to not only raise the profile of various pro bono centres across the capital, but also to offer opportunities to volunteers with all levels of experience. The LYLG partnered with LawWorks and a number of pro bono clinics, looking for new volunteers to facilitate the process.
LYLG strongly believe that more young lawyers and law students are becoming increasingly willing to either begin volunteering, or build on their involvement in pro bono activities. Taking your first step in pro bono volunteering can be daunting and it is essential to make it manageable.
What benefits do you think the scheme provides to those who receive the services?
The Pro Bono Month Campaign Launch was held successfully on 5 April 2017. It attracted enthusiastic young lawyers and law students, including me at the time, to learn more about LawWorks, different pro bono centres and opportunities in London. The panel of speakers also shared their experiences of volunteering, which I am sure inspired the participants to take their first step to give back to the pro bono community. It is very important to raise such awareness among young lawyers and law students since those who do not have access to justice really need our help.
What benefits to you get from participating in the scheme?
Since taking part in the Pro Bono Month, I have volunteered in Battersea Law Centre, Lambeth Law Centre and Horizon Legal Advice Clinic. It has been a great learning experience for me as I have strengthened my client care skills and developed the ability to spot issues quickly. My drafting skills have also improved through drafting submissions and mandatory reconsideration letters to the social security tribunals. I even attended a tribunal hearing representing my client, which was a great experience. Finally, I have also become a committee member of the LYLG!
What do you enjoy about the scheme and what do you find challenging about the scheme?
The Pro Bono Month gave me access to various pro bono opportunities in London, which opened doors for me. In the pro bono centres, being able to apply my problem-solving skills to help clients solve their problems has been particularly rewarding. I also enjoy building a rapport with clients. The most worthwhile part is definitely when you successfully secure the social benefit for your client.
The challenging aspect is perhaps seeing the clients who are often distressed and emotional. It is frustrating to tell them their objectives are sometimes difficult to achieve. Some clients truly have nowhere else to turn and it is difficult seeing the obstacles that the justice system can sometimes place in front of them.
What is the importance for you in doing pro bono work and why would you encourage others to get involved?
I believe in giving back to society and access to justice is hugely important. In the wake of Legal Aid cuts, helping those less fortunate than us has become even more pressing. As a paralegal who has just finished law school, I encourage all aspiring lawyers to take part in pro bono activities, even when you are in law school. You will not only learn essential skills for your professional development, but also make a real difference to those in need. Please do check out LawWorks, LYLG and your local legal centres to find out how you can volunteer.