Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Lessons form the 3rd sector . . .

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt

I came across this famous snippet of a speech recently and it really struck a chord with me. With only a few (hopefully) short years left of law school and having done well so far, this year I decided to learn more about the law in action. It struck me that I could do this while helping people in a hopefully direct and meaningful way by joining the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic and my local Citizens Advice Bureau, so far I have nothing but good things to say about both. Both provide extensive and useful training and are highly professional, staffed by people who have a genuine interest in access to justice and social issues. I think this interest in community and access to justice are are extremely important. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the public perception of lawyers and those who work with the law can often be far form positive, but there are groups out there who are doing good work and helping people. 

A real personal benefit of getting involved with these groups is learning about the law in action. After 4 years of studying law and countless hours buried in textbooks and case law I came to a stark realisation: I have no idea how to sue someone! No idea how to take an action to court, no idea how to appeal a decision of the court, I could tell you how the 'neighborhood principle' works, explain the law's approach to proportionality or the grounds under which someone may seek judicial review. I just don't know how to get the action to court in the  first place. I'm sure this is the kind of thing that's dealt with during the Diploma in legal practice and the traineeship, (or is it PEAT 1&2 now? not 100% sure) but I'm kind of keen to find out! 

Another benefit is the work itself, since starting the law degree and returning to my trade, I've kind of gotten out of the habit of working in an office environment, trying to solve people's problems. I think that in the coming years, with the state of the economy along with the proposed changes to the benefit system and legal aid cuts there will be a mountain of people needing help from the likes of CAB and the Law Clinic.

It all strikes me as a win-win, I benefit, the organisations benefit, and the wider community benefits, having some involvement in the charity sector can only be a good thing and I'd encourage anyone thinking about it to take the plunge and just do it . . . .

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