Next in the student blog series where our recent graduates share how their understanding of the value of pro bono legal work has developed in light of their participation in the Open Justice activities of the past year. This blog is by former 'Justice in action' student Harriet Daniels.
When I first started the Open Justice module I was told, alongside many other students, that our first task would be to complete a report on whether it was time for police reform since the murder of Sarah Everard. Whilst I was glad to have been given this topic amongst all of the available options and thought the topic would involve some interesting research, I wasn’t looking forward to the group work and in all honesty just wanted to skip straight to my work with the Freedom Law Clinic. In my opinion, the report did not align with the module and was not pro bono work, so I did not see the point in having us do it. For once, I was glad to be proved wrong.
I have never been a fan of group work and have always felt I work better alone; I was therefore hesitant going into this research report and could only think of the negatives. Will everyone pull their weight? How will we manage everyone’s schedules? How do we manage the different working styles? I won’t lie and say that it was all smooth sailing, of course we faced difficulties, it is inevitable when working in a group, particularly with a group of people you don’t know and whom you will only ever meet virtually. However, what I gained from this project outweighs any of the difficulties we faced. Fortunately, our group was understanding of everyone’s time commitments and varying schedules, and there was no one person who wasn’t willing to take on some extra work if someone needed help. I myself even needed this help at times. When carrying out research for my part of the report, I was struggling to find evidence to support my arguments, however, my teammate Emily supported me and passed along information she had found, whilst also letting me know how/where she found it. It was at this point I really saw the benefits of collaborative working, had I been working on this report alone, I would never have found these statistics. In completing this research report, I was able to develop my collaborative skills and understand the importance of them, whilst also improving my research skills with the help of my teammates.
Another incredible outcome of this report, which I never saw coming, was the growth and development of my professional identity. In one of our small group meetings with our tutor Gillian, I learnt that this report amounted to pro bono work as it fell under the category of policy work, something I was not aware of until long after we had completed the report. Because of the work I completed here, I have decided that policy work is an area I would be extremely interested in going into within my career, something which I may have never realised otherwise. Like many others who wish to pursue a career in law, my motive has always been to make a change and make an impact with that change. The development of my collaborative and research skills within the completion of this report, as well as the first-hand experience of pro bono policy work, means I am a step closer to achieving this and realising in which direction I want my legal career to take. It is from this that I now understand the role pro bono work plays within one’s professional identity and how important it can be in shaping it. Had I not had the chance to work on this report, I may never have found my new career aspiration.