To celebrate Pro Bono Week 2023, University of Bristol Law graduate, Oladayo Ige gives her first hand experience of working in the Law School’s pro bono legal service, the Law Clinic and being an intern as part of the Black Student Internship offered in partnership with law firm, Leigh Day.
My name is Oladayo and I studied the LLM in International Law and International Relations at the University of Bristol. I became involved with the Law Clinic during my internship there. The internship comprised of four weeks at the Law Clinic and two weeks at a law firm, which in my case was, Leigh Day. I saw an email from the employability team advertising the internship so I applied because pro bono work was something I wanted to get into and also, I knew that the experience would be beneficial for me moving forward. I also have a big interest in social justice and a claimant-based law firm like Leigh Day appealed to my sensibilities.
After applying, I had an interview with Sumayyah Malna, Senior Lecturer and Solicitor from the Law Clinic and another solicitor from Leigh Day. A week later I got the email that I had been offered the internship, which I immediately accepted.
How was your experience on the internship?
Prior to the internship I did not have any legal experience, so I was keen to make the most of it and learn as much as possible. I had a great time. I found that the entire Law Clinic team, from the solicitors to the non-legal staff members, to the other student volunteers were supportive and kind.
“I felt reassured that my lack of experience was not a problem, and I appreciated the nurturing environment around me.”
As part of the internship, I was able to spend two weeks in London. I was provided accommodation in a lovely flat and had a little taster of what corporate 9-5 life had to offer. Sumayyah and other members of the Law Clinic kept in touch and checked up on me, which I appreciated. I was able to meet lovely people at Leigh Day, some of whom I still speak to til this day, and the supervising solicitor for the internship was entirely supportive.
What was your favourite part of the internship?
Being given the ability to simply get stuck into the work. At the Clinic, I was given a set of cases to work on. Both independently and also alongside a more experienced student volunteer. I was able to research the cases myself and interview clients and also report to the solicitor actually working on the case. Drafting emails and letters – it vastly mirrors a lot of the work I do currently now as a paralegal.
At Leigh Day, I really enjoyed getting to spend time in different departments. I started off in Clinical Negligence, which I knew nothing about but I really enjoyed it. I also spent time in the International and Human Rights department.
Congratulations on securing your paralegal position with Leigh Day. How are you finding it so far and do you feel your internship helped prepare you for this role?
Thank you. As I am writing this, I have officially been a paralegal for a month. It was really daunting at first, going in with no experience. But I would say what I lack in experience I made up with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.
I think my internship helped me prepare for the role as firstly, it is at the same firm I did the internship. Having spent time there I was familiar with the firm’s ethos, culture and working style. I am currently a paralegal in the human rights team, which I spent some days in during my work experience, so I was well aware of the type of cases investigated by that team. Everyone was nice and welcomed me back which was sweet when I was introduced. My supervising solicitor is supportive, and I am enjoying learning new things.
“We all start from somewhere. Keep applying and don’t give up.”
As I mentioned before a lot of the work I am doing now does mirror the things I did during my internship, especially when it comes to the admin aspect of my role.
What are your future ambitions with your career, be it in the legal sector or beyond?
In the short-term I plan to do the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) next year and qualify as a solicitor; however I am very unopposed to doing a full training contract as I would like to explore legal areas as well. More long term, I have a big interest in NGO work and international global organisations and the administration of social justice through wider social policy, so that is also something I want to look into.
What advice would you give to students looking to gain an internship or legal work experience?
Definitely read the emails you are sent by the employability team – it’s very easy to just mark them as read but do give them a glance from time to time. Utilise the resources around you. I heard this a lot while I was at Uni and I understand it’s easier said than done, as there is so much going on in your lives while studying. However, still allocate some time to that if you can.
And if you see something and the deadline is fast approaching and you feel it’s too late to apply, still do. If you want it, go for it. Don’t be afraid that you have no experience, we all start from somewhere. Keep applying and don’t give up.
Find out more
Discover how the University of Bristol Law Clinic provides pro bono legal services and the opportunities available to our students via their website.