While the loss of a job can leave us feeling down and out, volunteer work in the legal industry can offer us a bit of positive relief.
One of the most well-known pro bono volunteer organizations in the world is Reprieve. Founded in the UK, Reprieve also offers volunteer opportunities in the U.S. out of New Orleans. Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay. Working on the frontlines, they provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for legal support. As its mission statement boasts, Reprieve "promotes the rule of law around the world to secure each person's right to a fair trial." Their work ultimately saves lives.
Because Reprieve provides legal assistance services, they require support from all walks of the legal profession – and that includes paralegals and legal assistants. Volunteers are often entrenched in the legal investigatory work which requires valuable skills well-known to paralegals. In the UK, Reprieve's lawyers currently represent over 30 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The Group also continues to assist British nationals facing the death penalty around the world, and are conducting investigations into secret prisons.
In the U.S., Reprieve places volunteers in law offices across the U.S., though usually in the deep south, where they will assist on death penalty cases where the capital defense system is critically underfunded. Those of us who work in criminal law know how life-changing and valuable this type of work can be. While volunteer positions with Reprieve are often unpaid, the work that you do during your placement can be some of the most rewarding work you'll ever do in your life. If you can spare the time and lack of money, this might be the start of an amazing journey. You never know where your work might take you and what doors might subsequently open up as a result.