Working at a City law firm, I never expected to get involved in social services law, and I definitely never imagined I would be involved in the legislative process.
But within four months of starting my training contract I was doing both.
When I heard that the NSPCC was looking for lawyers at Baker & McKenzie to assist with its work on the Social Services and Well-being Bill for Wales, I immediately signed up. At the time, I wasn’t all that sure what I would be doing, but I thought that an opportunity to work for the NSPCC was too good to miss. Before I knew it I was reading through a bill on social services and trying to get to grips with some very hefty acts on adoption, fostering and child protection.
Over the next few months, I was part of a group of trainees, paralegals and associates working on the project. Our job was to advise on the legalistic points of the Bill to the NSPCC, so that they could provide comments to the Welsh Government on how they felt the Bill should be worded in order to provide the maximum protection possible to vulnerable children.
I remember at the time being slightly daunted by the fact that I had been entrusted with something so important, particularly in an area of law I knew nothing about. But there were associates reviewing everything that we trainees were doing so we had plenty of support. And although I might have been working slightly longer hours than normal in juggling my normal work and pro bono, it didn’t feel that way, as the work was so varied.
Looking back, it was so interesting to do something so entirely different, and I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t enjoy the experience! I might not exactly have drafted legislation, but it is a pretty great feeling to know that one day this bill will be law, and that I had a part to play in that. And I know there is no way I could have been involved in something like this other than through pro bono. Plus, there are other perks – we will soon be attending a thank you reception hosted by the NSPCC.
Of course, once you’ve done one pro bono project, you get hooked… my next one involves advising on legislation for a country in Africa!
Catherine Gulliver is a trainee at Baker & McKenzie