BY BEVERLY MA, LAW II
Executive Director of Access Pro Bono Jamie Maclaren held a talk on August 30, 2013, about the value of pro bono work, at the Pro Bono Students Canada annual Lunch Launch. Importantly, he highlighted the access to justice crisis in Canada, and in our province. With fixed annual contributions from the Law Foundation, there are ever-increasing tradeoffs to budget allocations that inevitably limit access to lawyers for low and middle-income individuals with legal issues. Law students represent an invaluable resource and a partial solution, in my opinion, as they themselves have access to tools that can help some of those that fall outside of the current pro bono net. Not only do law students give, in return they receive invaluable experience to develop themselves in their legal careers even before they start working for a firm. I greatly enjoyed Andrew’s post here in the Legal Eye last year on this topic.
While law students like getting involved, there is often a dilemma. I once heard the remark that law school itself is a huge commitment, and any additional commitments become over-commitments. It is not surprising that law students hesitate to commit more time to legal endeavors when faced with so many additional commitments and a desire to maintain a life outside of law school. Volunteering as a law student is a commitment, but it is often as much of a commitment as you make it to be. Programs like Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) have a limited commitment of 3-5 hours per week, and the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP) is infamously flexible (you can take as many [or as few] files as you want, pretty much!).
Now is the time of year when law students are applying for programs such as those I have mentioned above (the PBSC deadline is September 19, 2013, and although the LSLAP application deadline of September 9, 2013, has just past, an email to one of the LSLAP execs may still be able to find you a spot). If you are a law student at UBC (or elsewhere), I encourage you to take the plunge and get involved with one or both of these programs, whether you are motivated by the access to justice crisis or the prospect of adding more to your resume. Do not discount the value of the assistance offered by a law student to client and public interest organizations.