Updated: Jun 10
During lockdown, I wanted to utilise my time and find a voluntary role that meant I would make a difference, even if small. I came across Advocate. I was really interested in the work they did and what they stood for. Having two small children, the only way for me to volunteer is if it was held remotely. I was pleased to read that they offered remote working and I put my application in.
To give you some background on Advocate, they are the pro bono charity of the Bar and are supported by the Bar Council. They find free legal help from Barristers for people in desperate situations and who cannot get legal aid or afford to pay. The work they do is amazing, and they are really making a difference to people who are otherwise unable to afford the legal help they deserve.
I never thought for one minute I would be successful since I do not have a legal background and I am much older than most applicants. I thought nothing ventured, nothing gained. When I received the email inviting me to a remote interview I was over the moon. Interview done and then the agonising wait to see if I was successful, which I was. I would be a Volunteer to the Senior Casework Team. A training session was organised via Zoom and this gave us the support we needed to use their systems. Remote working was new to Advocate but I can safely say it was organised extremely well and anytime you needed help you could get hold of someone straight away.
I volunteer every Wednesday. My day consists of pushing cases to barristers. I will be assigned a couple of cases, which I get time to look through and familiarise myself with. I am exposed to four areas of law, Family, Chancery, Commercial and Employment. Once I have really understood the case, it is time to contact barristers to see if they are willing to take on the work. This is the part I enjoy the most. It means looking up barristers and their Chambers, finding something on their Chambers profile that would make them a good match to the case. Then I draft an email to send them. It is good practice to make the email personal to the barrister, that way they are likely to say yes.
I also am involved in writing up case studies for cases that have been completed by barristers. This involves recording the information from the barrister for Advocate’s records and then writing a summary of the case, the outcome and the impact on the client. A few other bits of ad-hoc paperwork and that is my day at Advocate.
To say it has been a pleasure is an understatement. I can only describe my time there as extremely worthwhile. Everyone is super helpful and the skills I have learnt will help me to go on and progress my legal career. Shyam Popat, the Head of Casework says: "Advocate's core staff team is very small, and we rely so much on our incredible volunteers, who we have helping us every single day. It is safe to say that we couldn't manage without them and, in turn, try to provide good training and an experience they will never forget."
I would highly recommend volunteering for Advocate, everyone is very friendly and supportive, and I have enjoyed being part of a team. To know I have had a small part in helping people get the justice they deserve is an experience that we should all get involved in.
Advocate runs several volunteer programmes a year. To find out more, visit https://weareadvocate.org.uk/office-volunteering.html
Written By: Zoe Martin
OULS News Reporter