Getting involved in a pro bono project is a great way to deepen your legal knowledge and enhance your employability. You can also gain skills in project management, working to deadlines and communicating with a range of people, which employers look for from graduates – pro bono involvement is a fantastic addition to your CV.
Pro Bono at the School of Law
At the School of Law we have 4 in-house pro bono schemes. Click on the tabs below to learn more.
The Miscarriages of Justice Review Centre (MJRC) provides Sheffield law students with a unique opportunity to investigate cases of people convicted of serious crimes who are maintaining their innocence. Legal aid isn’t available to such people once they have exhausted the initial appeals process, so here’s where our law students really make a difference, by offering their services free of charge.
Our student volunteers aim to find fresh evidence to support our clients’ claims of innocence and use it in making applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for clients’ cases to be reviewed for referral to the Court of Appeal. In teams led by students themselves and supervised by the project directors, MJRC student investigators;
• manage cases
• conduct intensive reviews
• write letters, reports and applications on behalf of clients
• visit clients in prison
• visit crime scenes
• interview witnesses
The project is innovative in giving students a unique first-hand experience and insight into this area of criminal justice utilising a mentored teaching environment to maximize learning opportunities. Skills gained through the project enable students to be more equipped for professional practice beyond their studies making them more attractive to potential employers.
Project Director: Professor Richard Percival
CommLaw is a student-led pro bono project which prepares and delivers free commercial legal advice and presentations to businesses in Sheffield; particularly small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Under the supervision of qualified solicitors from local law firms, student advisers deliver advice on a range of commercial legal issues including:
- Website Terms & Conditions
- Business Structures
- Product Labelling Regulations
- Contractual Issues
Project Director: Louise Glover
The Criminal Justice Initiative is a collaboration with the Centre for Criminal Appeals that aims to train the next generation of lawyers who will prosecute and defend people accused of crimes, and transform the way such cases are approached, both by the system and by individual lawyers.
Working as part of a case team, students will review a case or cases selected by the Centre for Criminal Appeals. Throughout students’ time on the project students will be mentored and supported by academic staff and will undergo training covering a range of topics such as the appeals process, defence investigation methods, forensic document analysis and case file management, confidentiality, data protection and self-care.
Student Case Investigators will work in groups to thoroughly review the case. This role may include reviewing the file, creating a chronology, identifying missing documents, compiling witness lists and researching the legal merits of the case. Student Case Investigators are the main individuals responsible for case-work on the project and together with group members students will be responsible for providing a professional service in an efficient and timely manner.
No previous experience of criminal case investigation is necessary, but applicants should be willing to undertake a comprehensive training programme and will need a keen interest in this area.
Project Director: Paula Hatton
Our Pro Bono Partners
In addition to the pro bono opportunities at the School of Law there are also many opportunities to get involved with pro bono work outside of the School of Law.
The following organisations offer students the opportunity to get involved in pro bono work:
(Please note: not all of the following projects offer places to students every year)
Citizens Advice Sheffield is Sheffield’s leading provider of advice services and advocacy services. They help about 20,000 people a year and aim to tackle poverty and campaign for social justice.
Students benefit from working alongside a large workforce of both volunteers and paid staff members, including advisers. The Citizens Advice Centre provides confidential, independent, impartial and free.
Victim Support is the independent charity for people affected by crime and traumatic events in England and Wales. Students benefit from working alongside specialist teams in providing individual, independent, emotional and practical help to enable people to cope and recover from the effects of crime. Victim Support also have a wealth of support and training available for any volunteer who joins them, including regular one-to-ones.
Change Grow Live (CGL) offer support to young people, those in the criminal justice system and anyone looking to live a healthier, happier life. Students will act as Appropriate Adults to young people and vulnerable adults. CGL offers students a preparatory training programme, work shadowing experience and on-going support.
South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice Centre is a locally led and run, non-political and non-denominational group of volunteers. Its members include lawyers, students, people experienced in the asylum field and those who are new to it. Students benefit from the SYRLJ Training Programme, with the aim of integrating practical experience of the asylum process with academic knowledge and legal skills.
The Sheffield Foyer is a supported housing project for 64 young people aged 17-25 who are affected by homelessness. Part of their role is to equip each young person with the skills they need to live and thrive independently. Students will have the opportunity to assist with the weekly advice surgery, so that young people living in the Foyer can drop in and get advice about housing issues, council tax, housing benefits and universal credit.
How to Get Involved in Pro Bono
Applications for all of our pro bono schemes (internal and external) open at the beginning of Semester 1 each year.
There is an Activities Fair in the School of Law before applications open where you can come along and speak to representatives from the pro bono projects.
Students will be emailed when applications open.
What our Students Say
“Volunteering with the MJRC has been the best thing to happen to me at university. It has opened up so many opportunities for me to meet interesting people and gain many new skills.”
“Free Law has been a fantastic and really important part of my university experience. Through working at the Clinic I have been able to develop my skill set tremendously which has considerably improved my employability.”
“I have really enjoyed getting to apply my legal skills that I have learnt throughout my university education to real life practical scenarios.”
“The Criminal Justice Initiative has provided hands on and invaluable experience of working through a case file, researching different aspects of the case and drafting skills.”