As a Law student I was able to choose a Pro Bono initiative with Citizens Advice as one of my modules. As an aspiring solicitor, I was thrilled that I would be able to practice and extend my legal knowledge while helping others. However, don’t worry if you aren’t a Law student as legal knowledge is not essential to volunteer. All the guidelines are provided and you are never giving advice yourself. You always need to consult the problem with your supervisor.
Answering the phone from the clients for the first time is never an easy experience. You need to remember the guidelines, to sound friendly, constantly think about what questions to ask and remember to actively listen to the client. My first call was a challenge to say the least! Not only was I nervous, but it was from an irritated client who had been waiting on the line for a long time. As you can imagine, it ended with him demanding to talk to my supervisor.
Luckily, after this I didn’t receive any more bad calls. With time, I managed to remember the rules and as a result, speaking with clients was much easier. In fact, my clients were generally lovely which made me really enjoy my shifts and made my life much easier. It has been an absolute pleasure helping them. The more calls you take on the easier it is for you to go without the scripts. You learn exactly what to say and what steps to take which makes you sound less robotic and your client have trust in you. Sometimes there will be things you don’t know but that is why your supervisor is there to support you!
After the telephone assessment you are required to send an email to the client and write up a case record on the system using a provided template, so that the problem can be followed up by your colleagues. It’s a smooth and easy part of the assessment and you are always supported if you get stuck.
During my time there, I’ve dealt with a range of issues from benefits and housing to employment and contract problems and as a result my understanding of these legal areas is much wider. So, if you have some spare time and want to use law to help people Citizens Advice is a great opportunity to do so!
If you are a student and are interested in finding out more about this opportunity, contact Susanna Hoar on firstname.lastname@example.org.