Dear members and other interested parties,
My name is Reiss Morrison, the President of the Pro Bono Society for the academic year 2019-2020. Having read my predecessor's Letter, I want to start by thanking her and her Committee for their hard work.
2018-2019 was a fantastic year for the Pro Bono Society. We performed an estimated 3911 hours of community volunteering in Nottinghamshire and beyond. We finished the year with a membership of over 550 avid volunteers, each doing their bit to keep our Society up and running.
We were recognised for our achievements last year at the LawCareers.Net National Awards. Amongst those accolades are nominations for Best Pro Bono Activities, Best Student Experience and Best Fundraising Initiative. Closer to home, at the University awards we earned Student Volunteer Group of the Year and Best Green Group.
These are achievements of which we are truly proud, and we strive every day to deserve those titles and earn others yet to be earned.
Having thanked last year's Committee and membership, I would like to turn to the year ahead, iterating what you can expect from us in 2019-2020.
Our eight fantastic projects will continue the hard work they have performed since our Society's inception. The amount of volunteering work we do on a regular basis never ceases to amaze me. From prison trips, negotiation competitions and mock trials to teaching children and fundraising, we offer practical volunteering experiences to suit all tastes and ambitions. For those wanting to explore topical issues in a more relaxed manner, we have regular talks from legal and non-legal speakers, from whom we can learn a lot and to whom we are always indebted.
All of these opportunities are included in our £1 membership fee. I am still genuinely proud of how much value for money our members receive.
We shall this year also expand and modify our Society, as every Committee should do and as we have already started doing. On the 2nd October 2019 our members unanimously voted in favour of appointing a new Sustainability Officer and to confirm the two heads of OutLAW in our Constitution. Our Vice President, Aled McNeile, will be overseeing the implementation of our sustainability plan alongside the future Sustainability Officer, and I cannot wait to see how we can contribute to sustainability. Again, we must deserve our Best Green Group Award and attempt to earn it again this year.
Another area of Societal modification is our re-defining of 'pro bono.' To many people pro bono seems an exclusive term, only for law students and the law community. This simply is not true, and it is a personal endevaour of mine to recast pro bono in a more inclusive light. Pro bono is for everyone, our Society is therefore for everyone, irrespetive of faculty.
So, pro bono at its core is, to us at least, volunteering. It is about making a difference in the local, national and (perhaps this year) international communities.
Zooming out for a moment, the Students' Union at the University is rightfully focusing more on the welfare of students this year. We will be echoing this development with the training of all our Committee in basic welfare, and hopefully active listening through Nightline. Our volunteers are placed under potentially stressful situations; the least we can do is provide a well-trained Committee who can support one another and the members who devote their time to us.
Further changes to our Society include the exciting creation of a legal advice clinic at the University. We will keep everyone posted about the advancements made here but aim to have it running in January 2020, providing housing advice to students and staff at the University.
We are also reaching out to students interested in non-commercial law, collaborating with ELSA to offer NCL opportunities to members of our societies. How we award our volunteers is also improving with the addition of our Pro Bono in Practice Award, and communication will be different following the reduction of newsletters in favour of Pro Bono Round-ups (weekly summaries of our work) plus consistent Society office hours.
On a near-final note, I would like to thank our sponsors for this year, without whom our work would not be as wide-reaching if at all possible. Thank you to Ashurst, Unlocked Graduates, Teach First, Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields, Potter Rees Dolan and UniLife/Campus Nottingham. Our Students' Union page and independent website will identify their work, and I greatly encourage you to look into them.
I would like to end with some personal reflections of my time with the Pro Bono Society.
I recall sitting in my first year accommodation three years ago with a leaflet in my hand. It was the first newsletter the 2016-2017 Pro Bono Committee had sent to members. I honestly knew the Society would be a big part of my life at the University of Nottingham, but nothing could have foreshadowed just how much. I feel deeply honoured to have served on Committe in 2017-2018, and now as President in my final year of university. I see the same passion in our Committee this year and in our members already, and for that I am even more grateful. Pro bono is infectious, it's a community of giving people who understand that there are those in this world who need helping, and that life is about so much more than ourselves. Such selflessness is what drives me to make this year as amazing as I know it will be.
Here's to 2019 and 2020.