Hi Class of 2016!
We’re your friendly neighbourhood UBC Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) Coordinators!! We know some of you might be feeling a little overwhelmed – and excited – as you are getting ready for law school. There is going to be a lot of information to absorb even before classes begin, but we really wanted to take the time to give you some information about a very important aspect of your legal education: giving back to the community.
There are a lot of opportunities to get involved at Allard Hall, and volunteering with Pro Bono Students Canada is one of them! To give you a flavor of PBSC, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions from students about our Program.
PBSC: COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What does ‘pro bono’ mean?
Pro bono or pro bono publico (in Latin: for the public good) is when a lawyer (or law student) provides legal services for free in the public interest. These services are hugely important to the community as a whole as they help ensure equal access to our justice system and the provision of high quality legal information and services to non-profit public interest organizations and to low and modest income individuals. Through student placements PBSC strives to help students recognize the importance of adopting a pro bono ethic early on in their legal career.
So, what does PBSC do, exactly?
Pro Bono Students Canada is a national, award-winning, student-run organization, with local chapters at every Canadian law school, which aims to provide pro bono legal services to various public interest associations and vulnerable members of our community.
PBSC helps to increase access to justice by matching law students with a wide range of public interest organizations in a wide variety of areas, including immigration, health, environmental, and sports law. Last year we matched 67 volunteers with 23 organizations, so there is definitely something for everyone! Student volunteers (you), under the supervision of practicing lawyers, then provide these organizations with a variety of legal services including research, creating public legal education documents, running legal workshops, and doing client intake. The result of this structure is a win-win-win situation: organizations benefit from the valuable work students provide, members of the community get access to high quality legal services they could not otherwise afford, and students gain research skills, networking opportunities, and the opportunity for one on one feedback from a supervising lawyer.
What kinds of students are involved in PBSC?
We welcome applications from all UBC law students. We expect to have an updated list of PBSC project descriptions available in August 2013 as we continue to develop placements through the summer. The deadline to apply for these projects will be in September 2013. More information and exact dates will be communicated as soon as they are available.
While some projects require Upper Year students, we recognize that First Year students have a lot to offer. When reviewing applications, we like to see students who are interested and enthusiastic about the projects. While research and writing experience is always an asset PBSC looks for a variety of specific skills when considering applications to ensure successful placements for both students and organizations!
Where can I find out about experiences of past students?
PBSC-UBC is starting to compile testimonials from past student volunteers on our website. Remember to check back later on in the summer for more information online! We are also more than happy to chat with you in person anytime (our contact info is below!).
Which organizations partner with PBSC?
Some of our partner organizations in the past include: Access Pro Bono, Canada Civil Liberties Association, Ecojustice, John Howard Society, West Coast LEAF, BC SCPA, Prisoner’s Legal Services, and more. The PBSC program is designed to assist organizations and community groups with public interest mandates that have unmet legal needs and we continually seek expand our placements to keep up demand.
What is the time commitment of a PBSC volunteer?
The PBSC volunteer time commitment is very manageable. Students volunteer anywhere from 3-5 hours per week, and no time commitment is required during the exam period.
What is the role of the Program Coordinators?
The Program Coordinators help to manage the day-to-day operations of PBSC-UBC. For example, we help to find placement opportunities for law students by connecting with organizations and supervising lawyers. We also strive to ensure that a PBSC placement is going smoothly for all parties involved by being available throughout the school year and by conducting periodic monitoring surveys. We love hearing from students, so feel free to contact us anytime! And consider applying for the 2014-2015 PBSC coordinator positions!!
Besides PBSC, how else can I get involved?
While we think that PBSC is an excellent opportunity for students to get involved at Allard Hall, there are many other ways to contribute as well and students aren’t limited in participating with only one.
Volunteering opportunities include, but are not limited to, executive positions in student governance, student clubs, editorial positions within law journals and the Law Students Legal Advice Program (LSLAP).
Last year, a very helpful blog post comparing the volunteer experience between the Law Students Legal Advice Program and PBSC, was drafted:
While we continue our work developing exciting projects and placements for you this summer we would love to hear from you and are happy to field any questions you might have! We look forward to meeting you all at our Lunch Launch during Orientation Week!
If you have any questions at all, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at (604) 822-8009, or visit our website at www.pbsc.law.ubc.ca.
Beverly Ma (2L) and Michael Fitzmaurice (3L)