What is pro bono and why do we need it?
Pro bono work refers to legal services that are offered free of charge to members of the community who cannot otherwise access the justice system. Canada is currently facing an access to justice crisis. Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) aims to tackle this crisis while providing law students with invaluable professional experience. Law school is a great place to start contributing to the access to justice movement and joining PBSC allows you to develop skills outside of the classroom while doing so!
What is PBSC?
PBSC is a national, multiple award-winning organization with chapters in 22 law schools across Canada. The first pro bono organization in the country, PBSC has been working with law schools and the bar associations across Canada to deliver high-quality legal services for over 20 years. Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella described PBSC as “one of the most visionary undertakings I have seen in my 40 years at the bar.”
Each year, about 1,600 PBSC volunteers provide approximately 140,000 hours of free legal services to over 400 organizations, courts, and tribunals across the country. We partner with public interest organizations, legal clinics, and lawyers. Some of our partners in Vancouver include West Coast LEAF, Access Pro Bono, Pivot Legal Society, and the BC Civil Liberties Association, to name a few.
How does PBSC work?
PBSC matches students to a specific project based on their interests and skills. Projects vary considerably but generally fall into one of the following categories: client intake or assistance (where students actually meet with the organization’s clients), public legal education, client advocacy, legal research and policy development, and student internships.
Each project has been developed to assist a specific community and is run through a local organization. These organizations may be not-for-profit or public interest groups, legal clinics or law firms. In addition to the support provided by the matched organization, PBSC students are also supervised by a lawyer – providing additional opportunities for mentorship.
Students are expected to work on their projects from 3-5 hours/week, and are exempted from completing placement work during exams.
How can I find out more?
To learn more about PBSC, please visit our website. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting you all in September!
The Program Coordinators this year are Kyleen Wong (3L) and Sophie Toor (2L). They are extremely excited to showcase all of the amazing opportunities offered by PBSC this year and look forward to meeting you during orientation. They would like to extend a warm welcome and congratulations to all of the incoming 1Ls and cannot wait to get to know you!
Continue reading for our top reasons to join our team!
What makes PBSC unique? Top 5 reasons to volunteer with PBSC:
- Get hands-on legal experience that you cannot get in the classroom
Students may pick which project they are interested in applying for based on which skills you are looking to strengthen:
- Research and writing projects à develop legal analysis skills while tackling real problems.
- Client Assistance projects à provide procedural guidance for litigants, help with legal drafting, assist with court support or accompaniment, and provide legal information and referrals.
- Internships à gain insight regarding the workings of a firm work directly with lawyers, often at firms or other legal organizations, on discrete legal tasks.
- Public legal education projects à develop strong client relational skills, and the opportunity to improve your public speaking and communication.
Testimonial from Cate Provan, a PBSC volunteer:
“Unlike law school, where exams are typically based on made-up fact patterns, my placement let me be a part of solving actual legal problems that affect real people. It was wonderful to feel like a contributing member of the legal community!”
- Develop skills related to the area of law you are passionate about.
PBSC gives you the opportunity to explore an area of law in which you are interested in practicing and to expose yourself to areas that you will not otherwise encounter during your time at Allard. PBSC has a range of projects serving the following communities:
- Homeless and marginally housed individuals; Immigrant, refugee, and newcomer individuals; Indigenous individuals; People who identify as LGBTQ+; People living with disabilities; People living with mental health challenges; Prisoners and former prisoners; Racialized individuals; Self-represented litigants; Seniors; Violence against women survivors and other women; and Children and youth.
Testimonial from Tess Gregory, Project lead for Homeless ID Project
“I have been volunteering with PBSC at the Homeless Identification Project (“Homeless ID Project”) for the past year, and I can’t say enough good things about it! I was interested in volunteering for this project specifically because I wanted to gain experience working on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, as I eventually want to build a legal career doing public interest work for this community.
- Network with lawyers, firms, and community organizations, and meet other student volunteers
As a student volunteer, you work closely with your organization and supervising lawyer on your project, which gives you the opportunity to network within the legal and social justice community. PBSC also hosts a number of training sessions and other community building events throughout the school year where you can meet other student volunteers.
- Balance your studies with a manageable volunteer commitment
PBSC placements are just 3 to 5 hours per week, with blackout periods during exams in December and April. Many of our placements allow students to work remotely, while other shift-based placements give students the opportunity to integrate themselves within the organization.
- Make a real difference early on in your legal career
PBSC matches law students with public interest and community organizations that are in need of legal services. As most of our partner organizations are non-profit, they could not do their work without the dedicated support of the legal community in taking on pro bono files and projects.