Friday 10 April 2015
Queen Mary Pro Bono Society won ‘Best Pro Bono Activities’ sponsored by Nabarro LLP, in the LawCareers.Net Student Law Society Awards 2015. The awards ceremony took place on the evening of Thursday 26 March at Painters’ Hall, London.
We spoke to Hannah Paige Fry, President of the Queen Mary Pro Bono Society, about their recent success and opportunities available to members of the society.
What are the aims and focus of the Queen Mary Pro Bono Society?
The Queen Mary Pro Bono Society (QMPBS) is a student-led non-profit organisation, with a membership of 250-300, which has a primary focus of increasing access to justice and understanding of the law itself in a vast array of areas by engaging members in volunteering, fundraising and networking opportunities. ‘Pro Bono Publico’, meaning ‘for the good of the public’ is at the heart of the activities we organise.
The QMPBS attracts members to join the society by firstly offering a variety of opportunities concerning volunteering, fundraising and networking. Our society is made up of ten departments, each having a separate goal which relates back to our central aim of helping the society in which we live. These include: The Advocate, Placements, International Placements, Member Development, Green Law, Karma Koffee, Street Law, Charities, Human Rights and Target Bar. Due to the variety of types of opportunities and areas of interest, we believe there is an activity of interest for every law or non-law student to get involved with.
Secondly, QMPBS is primarily a placement opportunities focused society, despite also running numerous events. We feel our members get the most benefit from going on placements which we set up, to increase their range of work experience. Currently, we have just under 20 separate placement opportunities, both domestically and internationally each with numerous places throughout the year.
Finally, QMPBS is entirely run by law students at Queen Mary, we believe in students creating opportunities for other students. Students can get involved in two ways, you can either become a member and take part in QMPBS opportunities, or you can apply to be part of our committee. Our current QMPBS committee is made up of over 45 people. Work as a committee member allows you to hold a position of responsibility and exercise project management skills, initiative and determination. Additionally, it allows committee members to create long-term links with organisations and law firms.
Congratulations on your success in the LawCareers.Net Student Law Society Awards 2015. Can you describe the nomination process and significance of the awards?
On Thursday 26 March 2015 the first LawCareers.Net Student Law Society Awards brought together students, recruiters, partners and trainees with the LawCareers.Net team for a networking-rich presentation at Painters’ Hall in London. The new event recognises the dedication of student committees across the country offering their members innovative careers events, comprehensive pro bono and mooting activities, alongside traditional socialising with peers. Nominated societies were selected from the submissions of 32 student law society committees, alongside over 900 votes from their members.
Matt Akin, graduate talent specialist at the awards’ overall sponsor DWF, commented: “Student law societies are a crucial hub for future lawyers and can play a major part in shaping their university lives and subsequent professional careers.”
You won the Best Pro Bono Activities award because the ‘society is exceptional in helping students to access and open their minds to pro bono work. This is through promoting charity work and providing local and overseas pro bono opportunities for all members.’ Can you give some examples of some of the opportunities available to members of the Pro Bono Society?
Members participate in a range of activities such as volunteering and fundraising for the Whitechapel Mission, through Breakfast and Clothing Challenges and Holy Cross Centre, through advising refugees; assisting solicitors from four City law firms at free legal advice clinics by shadowing them and helping to draft letters of legal advice, and organising second hand book sales and supporting environmental projects such as Energy for Old Fadama and Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development.
Our opportunities focus both on increasing access to justice both at home and abroad. We aim to give legal support to the less fortunate in our immediate community by going into local schools and Community Centres to help spread awareness about topical issues. We also have created an internship with Refuge, a domestic violence charity, which focuses on reviewing the legal aspects of their fundraising activities. However, we also offer subsidized placements in Singapore, Australia, India, Ghana, South Africa, Cyprus, Kenya, Uganda and San Francisco which range from human rights focused placements providing legal advice to refugees and prison inmates, to more commercial focused placements such as conducting legal research concerning taxation. Furthermore, we established a new internship with Amicus-ALJ, which focuses on helping prepare and update briefs relating to capital punishment in the US. Finally, we also hold events on campus to raise awareness of topical issues, such as the inspirational speeches by Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle about surviving death row, and a lecture by Refuge concerning the inspiring efforts of their independent legal advocates.
How do you think QMPBS going to build on this success?
QMPBS aims to expand its opportunities and placement schemes both domestically and abroad. We are also in the process of our purchasing a sponsored Clothing Donation Box specifically for Whitechapel Mission, our partnered charity, which will be situated outside the Laws Building from approximately September. I have no doubt our next President will continue to develop our existing opportunities and departmental projects.
How have members of staff at QMUL supported the society?
The Queen Mary School of Law have continually supported QMPBS in its endeavours for over ten years. Valsamis Mitsilegas, the Head of the Department of Law, has always supported our activities in terms of financial assistance and professional guidance. Additionally, the work of QMPBS would simply not be possible without the invaluable financial and administrative expertise of both Janette Monk and Anett Loosz. Also, I would like to thank Julie Pinborough, the Director and Founder of the Legal Advice Centre at Queen Mary for her continual support of our Pro Bono efforts.
How can students get in contact with QMPBS?
Our website includes all of the links to our social media pages and information on how to become involved in the society: http://www.queenmaryprobonosociety.org/