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19 February 2024 | Firm News | Article by Lisa Morgan

Hugh James employees reflect on their time as students on the Pro Bono Scheme years ago


Since the first launch 17 years ago, the Pro Bono Scheme at Hugh James has seen hundreds of students take part in the six-week placement to work within the Nursing Care department. Many of those aspiring legal professionals went on to begin their careers at the firm and are still with us today.

As we recently welcomed the latest participants, the largest group to date, we also took the time to speak to those with fond memories of the scheme, which involves learning skills including client care, drafting and advocacy and getting the chance to work on dummy files, as they reflect on where it all began…

Charlotte Fletcher, now Senior Associate in the Court of Protection team, joined the scheme in the early days, in 2008/2009. Having secured a role as a paralegal in the Nursing Care team (whilst acting as supervisor on the scheme for other students), Charlotte then became Senior Case Manager, whilst completing her LPC part time, before joining the Court of Protection team as a solicitor.

Charlotte believes the scheme was invaluable to her career journey. One thing she remembers learning whilst taking part in the scheme is the importance of client communication, which she says has stayed with her throughout her career.

“Even if you don’t have a significant update. Sometimes just telling the client that alone is enough. The Court of Protection and the NHS are very similar in that they work very slowly at times which can be really frustrating for clients. Being able to proactively tell them “Sorry, there isn’t an update” can go a long way to maintaining a good relationship with them.”

So, what advice would Charlotte give this year’s intake of students on what to expect?

“I would encourage the students to get to know the people they are working with, both in terms of other students and the Hugh James supervisors. It is a brilliant way to start networking which is a really important skill. Unless things have changed dramatically, there will also be times when not much happens on cases, but there is always something you can do such as updating the client and getting prepared for the next steps.”

More than a decade later, another student of the scheme is Hawys Davies, who took part in 2021 during her last year of her studies. Due to Covid restrictions, there were limited work experience opportunities in law at the time but thankfully Hugh James adapted the Pro Bono Scheme so it could continue online.

Now coming to the end of her first seat as a trainee solicitor, Hawys joined the firm as a paralegal in the Nursing Care team not long after the scheme ended whilst studying for her LPC part time. She said:

“Taking part in the scheme was instrumental in providing some work experience during a time when many schemes were not running. This was hugely beneficial to me as when I applied for the paralegal role some months later, I could draw on the experiences that I had during the scheme.

I learned a variety of skills such as how to draft advice letters, what type of language to use with clients and how to show empathy to clients in difficult situations. These lessons have stayed with me and I used them every day as a trainee solicitor. The scheme also allowed us to develop our advocacy skills which many other legal work experiences do not.”

Hawys added how she remembers being told the importance of appreciating that each client is an individual and how, when dealing with these matters, we need to show empathy and treat each client with respect and understanding.

Both colleagues had similar experiences of the Pro Bono Scheme which is a testament to how valuable providing this placement to students has been to so many over the years. This is highlighted by the way in which both Charlotte and Hawys wished to continue working at Hugh James as an employee after experiencing life at the firm as an undergraduate many years ago.

We’ll hear from more alumni from the Scheme and look forward to hearing from the students currently taking part this year and what they have learned as they could also be future colleagues of ours here at Hugh James.

Pro Bono Scheme

If you’re interested in taking part in the Pro Bono scheme, Cardiff Law School usually publishes its schemes in the autumn and students can apply directly through the University. Read more about the scheme here and find out how the students who took part last year found the placement.

Author bio

Lisa Morgan is a Partner and Head of the Nursing Care department. She is regarded as an experienced and specialist solicitor leading in the niche area of continuing healthcare.

She has been instrumental in developing a niche legal department in Hugh James, which comprises of 40 fee earners who solely act for the elderly and families in recovering wrongly paid nursing fees.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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