If you are interested in pro bono work, legal work experience within a law centre or charity, a legal career with a charity or legal aid firm, or a social justice placement, this page is for you.
Our law degree is studied by a wide range of people from all backgrounds. You can get a flavour of the different law students who have been involved with the Open Justice Centre by viewing their testimonials and case studies.
This information was collated and checked in August 2022. At the time of writing it was correct but, should you wish to make any decisions based on it, we advise that you check that it remains factually accurate.
Where possible, we have included links to external sites where you can find further information. As always, we cannot take responsibility for access to – or the content of – non-OU websites.
Why do pro bono work, a placement or volunteering?
Doing pro bono work or a placement while you study has many benefits. Not only will you gain invaluable experience and a better understanding of the legal sector, but you will also develop additional skills and build examples of practice that you can draw on as you seek to progress your career. If you are training for a legal career, your developing skills could be of great use to a range of charities, law centres and social justice organisations. Having the right work experience is also an excellent stepping stone to a long and rewarding career using the law as a tool for social justice.
Read on to discover how to go about finding pro bono work, placements and volunteering work, as an OU student.
Will the Open Justice Centre team help me to find work?
The Open Justice Centre leverages the expertise of the OU Law School for the public benefit. This means there are opportunities to take part in online and offline projects which deliver high-quality legal education experiences for students, while delivering meaningful pro bono legal support to the public.
How should I choose which pro bono work or placement is for me?
During your OU studies, taking on a commitment such as pro bono work or a placement can be challenging. To help you stay motivated, the best approach is to choose a cause, client group or issue that is particularly important to you.
Where can I do pro bono work, a placement or volunteering through the OU?
The Open Justice Centre has many opportunities for OU students to gain work experience and engage with their communities. Some of these are in-person opportunities, while others can be done remotely.
Here are some examples.
W360 Justice in Action module – This is an optional Level 3 module which gives OU students the chance to work on pro bono projects while gaining academic credit.
Open Justice Law Clinic – This award-winning online law clinic sees OU students collaborating with solicitors, Associate Lecturers and academics to provide free, professional-standard legal advice to the public.
Prison public legal education (PLE) – Through this project, OU students provide law seminars for prisoner and ex-prisoner peer advisors trained by the St Giles Trust. They have also hosted prison radio shows focusing on legal questions posed by prisoners. ( This project is currently paused. We hope to restart it in the near future).
Street Law – The Open University Law Society and the Open Justice Centre offer Public Legal Education workshops in secondary schools and community groups to promote better understanding of law and legal issues.
Policy Clinic – Open Justice Centre students are asked to update Public Legal Education resources for a range of organisations and charities.
Support Through Court (STC) – OU students are invited to contribute to the work of STC, which helps litigants in person who are attending court without representation to navigate court and the legal system.
Citizens Advice – OU students can volunteer to support the charity, giving information and advice to the public.
UK Government Legal Profession – A regular collaboration between the OU and the UK Government Legal Profession sees 10 students at a time being mentored by practising government lawyers for nine months.
Can I arrange my own pro bono work experience or volunteering?
There are many other opportunities for work experience outside of the Open Justice Centre’s existing partnerships and projects.
The Coroners’ Court Support Service has volunteering opportunities across England. Volunteers support bereaved families and witnesses who may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and feelings when they attend the Coroner’s Court.
The Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) recruits volunteers to provide support to prisoners, people with convictions and their families across England and Wales.
The Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) seeks volunteer independent custody visitors to ensure the standards of custody and treatment of detainees is appropriate. Local contacts throughout the UK are available on the website.
Appropriate Adults are volunteers responsible for safeguarding the rights and welfare of children and ‘mentally vulnerable’ adults who are detained by police or voluntarily interviewed under caution. A network map links to local schemes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland who recruit volunteers.
Local law centres network across the UK request volunteers to support the provision of legal advice to the local community and have roles suitable for law students.
LawWorks provides pro bono opportunities for qualified solicitors across the country and offers internships to law students.
The Youth Justice Resource Hub hosts some volunteering opportunities within the Youth Offending Service, including Youth Offender panel members and magistrates across England and Wales. If this interests you, you could speak with your local Youth Offending Team to ask about current opportunities.
SACRO requests volunteers for a range of opportunities across Scotland, working to support people affected by, and responsible for, harm.
In Northern Ireland the Youth Justice Agency runs a volunteering scheme for people interested in working with young people in the youth justice system.
Restorative Justice Council – there are volunteering opportunities within restorative justice and the website provides information on how to secure volunteering in this area.
If you are looking to kickstart your career, there are several programmes and organisations that you may be interested to look at.
Two important examples are:
Justice First Fellowship through The Legal Education Foundation – This is a Fellowship scheme designed to support the next generation of specialist social justice lawyers. It will give you the opportunity to take part in a two-year fully funded training contract, devise and run your own project designed to improve access to justice, and to take part in invaluable networking.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers – This is a group of lawyers – including students – who are committed to practising in areas of criminal and civil law that have traditionally been publicly funded. Together they campaign for a sustainable, high quality, legal aid system, promote the interests of new and junior lawyers and provide a network for those starting out in the legal aid sector.
The Aspiring Solicitors Foundation assists young people in their ambitions to attend law firm events, carry out appropriate work experience, and network with the right people.
All current students and those who finished their studies within the last three years are also entitled to a careers consultation to help them plan and identify a Careers Action Plan, identify appropriate jobs or careers, and prepare for selection and interview. We also offer selected services to prospective students and those studying OU-validated modules elsewhere.