Unfortunately, even entry level and low paid work in legal aid often requires prior work experience, and due to the bottlenecks in the system you may find yourself competing with candidates that have worked for a number of years.
If you are still a student, you have the chance to start getting relevant experience at an early stage. Take advantage of student opportunities such as law clinics, miscarriage of justice projects and Amnesty International student groups. If your university does not offer this, consider setting up something yourself - and check if there are funds available to support that.
Internships and volunteering are good CV builders but can be difficult to access for those who have caring responsibilities or need to work to fund their studies. Look out for:
- Funded/expenses paid internships
- Evening/part time opportunities - law centres/university law clinics often offer flexible hours that you could fit around other commitments.
- Bursaries e.g. the Human Rights Lawyers Association, Inns of Court internships, university study/internship scholarships for the academic holidays
- Paid roles e.g. legal assistant to a barrister, paralegal in a law firm, county court advocate
- Remote volunteering e.g. writing articles for legal oriented websites like the Justice Gap, the Student Lawyer or joining one of YLAL’s sub-groups
Also if you see somewhere asking for 4 days a week for 3 months, go to them and ask if there is any possibility they can be flexible and accommodate your constraints - can you offer them 1 day a week for a year, for example.
One good tip for aspiring barristers, if you are not sure where to look for volunteering opportunities, is to check the profiles of junior barristers at chambers that you want to apply for - they will often mention different schemes they have done. Linked-in profiles of other junior lawyers may do the same.
In general, organisations that may offer opportunities include:
(YLAL is not affiliated with these organisations)
- Multiple locations: Bar Human Rights Committee, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), law centres (see Law Centres Network list), university law clinics, Streetlaw, Amicus, Personal Support Unit, Shelter, Independent Custody Visitor, Appropriate Adult, Refugee Action, Magistrates, Independent Parental Special Education Advice, National Centre for Domestic Violence, City of Sanctuary
- Leeds/Bradford: Bradford Women’s Aid, Manual Bravo Project, Palm Cove Society, Solace
- Liverpool: Vauxhall Community Law and Information Centre
- London: Free Representation Unit, Reprieve, Justice, Liberty, Privacy International, Amnesty International, Minority Rights Group International, ATLEU, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), Article 19, Redress, Fair Trials international, Howard League for Penal Reform, Howard League for Penal Reform, The Prisoners’ Advice Service, African Prisons Project, Release
- Manchester: Greater Manchester Law Centre, Manchester/Bolton/Rochdale CABs, Urban Lawyers North, ASHA
- Newcastle: Families in Care
- Sheffield: Ashiana Sheffield, ASSIST Sheffield, City Hearts