Law centre training programme launches

A programme supported by magic circle and City firms which trains law students to work in legal advice centres is now open to firms, chambers, law schools and universities.

Pro Bono Community, which was established late in 2012 and garnered support from firms such as Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May in May 2013, trialled its scheme on 29 students from October 2013 to April 2014 (28 May 2013).

It will now open its doors to chambers, firms, law schools and universities, charging them a small fee to train their students and lawyers, before helping to find legal advice centre opportunities for those who complete the training.

The course focuses on the interpersonal and practical skills needed in advice centres, as well as introducing participants to tribunal appeals and welfare reforms.

Pro Bono Community was established by Baker & McKenzie trainee David Dowling and 1 Essex Court pupil Oliver Hyams in 2012 (17 December 2012).

The pair wanted to combat the draining effect on resources that untrained volunteers can have on law centres; the lack of structure or support for volunteers; the skills of volunteers which can go unnoticed due to lack of time and resources; and the funding pressures law centres are currently under.

As Hyams told Lawyer 2B in 2012: “We volunteered at law centres ourselves and we thought there were some issues: there was no training element, some didn’t provide much support when you were there and there was a poor recruitment process. We sat down in the pub one day and thought, what we can do about this?”

Pro Bono Community also wants to launch versions of its training programme focusing on employment, housing, debt and family law in the near future.