My journey from law student to pro bono solicitor

To celebrate Pro Bono Week 2023, University of Bristol Law Clinic solicitor, Teaching Associate and alumna, Alex Walker gives an insight into her role working at the University’s pro bono legal service, supporting students improve access to justice and public legal education.

Image of Alex Walker, UNiverisyt of Bristol Law Clinic Solicitor and Teaching Associate, wearing a beige jumper, sat down in fron tof a sofa with a mug in her hands.

Welcome back to the Law School! Looking back to the start of your journey into law, why did you decide to study Law at Bristol?

I’m very happy to be back! I chose to study law at Bristol after attending an open day at the University back in 2015; I immediately fell in love with the city and the campus. Everyone was really welcoming and friendly, and it was clear that I’d be joining a supportive community. The global reputation of the Law School and teaching staff was also appealing, and I knew that studying here would set me up to have a rewarding and successful career.

What most inspired you about working at the Law Clinic as a student here and how did the experience help you in terms of preparing for the workplace?

As a student, the Law Clinic offered me a unique opportunity to put my academic learning into practice and work on real-life cases. What was most inspiring was being able to make a positive difference to peoples’ lives by helping them with their legal issues, especially when it might not have been possible for them to find help elsewhere.

“Working at the Law Clinic helped shape the way that I work and eased my transition into the workplace. I learnt how to conduct legal research, draft legal documents and communicate effectively with clients; these are all skills I’ve relied on heavily as a lawyer since graduating.”

I also had the opportunity to attend hearings and represent clients in both the Coroner’s Court and Employment Tribunal. These experiences boosted my confidence and helped me to become comfortable with public speaking in a court setting.

What have you done since graduating?

Post-graduation, I worked as a graduate adviser at the Law Clinic for just under a year before going on to complete my Legal Practice Course and an LLM in Professional Legal Practice at the University of Law. I then worked as a Legal Adviser in the Family Court where I completed my training contract and qualified as a solicitor. I was in this role for nearly three years before coming back to the Law Clinic.

Tell us about your work at the Law Clinic now

In my current role at the Law Clinic, I’m primarily responsible for supervising students on casework and teaching on the Clinical Legal Studies unit alongside John Peake and Sumayyah Malna. I also oversee our Junior Lawyers Against Poverty (JLAP) team. Our JLAP students have the opportunity to get directly involved in improving access to justice and public legal education by working on projects in the local community. For example, during Pro Bono Week, they will be attending a training session that will enable them to take part in Litigants in Person (LiP) Service; this is a scheme run in collaboration with UWE and ULaw designed to help unrepresented litigants going through family and civil court proceedings in Bristol.

What words of advice would you give a student looking to study Law?

My words of advice would be to stay open minded about where studying law can take you.

“As a student, it is easy to feel pressured to apply for a certain training contract or study a certain area of law because that’s what all your friends are doing, but there are plenty of alternative career routes available in law that might better align with your personal interests. Be open to different opportunities!”

My top tips for students starting out in the Law Clinic would be:

  1. Make use of all the resources available to you. There are lots of online resources to help you when carrying out legal research (Practical Law, LexisNexis, LawWorks, etc.) as well as Law Clinic specific resources that explain the process and practicalities (Student Handbook, SharePoint, etc.)
  2. Don’t overthink your first client meeting. Meeting your first real-life client can be a daunting prospect, but it is generally much less scary than you imagine. The purpose of the meeting is to collect relevant information so that you can go away and research the issue. Spend some time thinking of questions to ask beforehand and remember you’re not there to give advice on-the-spot.

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.

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