Working with OPBP

Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) provides pro bono legal research, particularly in the fields of international and comparative law, to individuals and organisations who are themselves working on a pro bono basis. In particular, we prepare or assist in the preparation of research briefs, expert opinions, amicus curiae briefs, policy submissions, and reports.

Over the last decade, OPBP has produced more than 50 projects for around 25 project partners across 12 different jurisdictions.

We have worked on issues ranging from the reform of India’s sexual harassment laws to the use of secret evidence in judicial proceedings, from the scope of freedom of information laws in Hungary to women’s inheritance rights in Botswana, and from the regulation of food advertising in the European Union to the protection of children’s rights in Brazil.

You can view our projects here.

You can also find the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about OPBP’s project work here, and scroll down to learn more about working on an OPBP project and making a project proposal.

Working on an OPBP project

Students

If you are a graduate student at the University of Oxford (including a visiting student), there are lots of opportunities to get involved with OPBP.

  • If you want to use your legal research and writing skills to help pro bono lawyers and organisations around the world, you can volunteer as a researcher on one of our projects.
  • If you know of an organisation or individual working pro bono who could use high-quality comparative or international law research, you can invite or work with them to submit a project proposal.
  • If there’s an area of public interest law that particularly appeals to you, you can volunteer as a student co-ordinator for an OPBP project.
  • If you have a passion for public interest law and are keen to build your skills and experience in this area, you can apply to the OPBP Internship Fund for a supporting grant.
  • If you’ve worked with OPBP before and are staying at the University of Oxford next year, you can chat to one of our current Committee members about applying for the 2015-16 Executive Committee.
  • If you want to stay up to date with OPBP news and events, you can email us at opbp@law.ox.ac.uk or you can sign up for our mailing list here.

Volunteering as a researcher

Whenever OPBP begins a new project, our student co-ordinators send out a call for volunteers specifying the nature of the project, the overall timeframe (anywhere between one and six months), and the estimated time commitment (anywhere between two days’ and two weeks’ work). Prospective researchers are invited to send a CV and a brief statement of interest to the co-ordinators, who make selections based on the needs of the project.

Once the selection process is complete, the volunteer researchers, student co-ordinators and Faculty supervisors meet to discuss the context and aims of the project and the best way of organising the research and drafting process. Volunteers are provided with a detailed set of research questions and a timeframe for their initial draft, and are encouraged to be in touch with one another and with the student co-ordinators as they move forward. Once their drafts have been submitted, volunteers may also be involved in compiling and proofing the consolidated report and in responding to follow-up queries.

Volunteer researchers are acknowledged as contributors on the cover pages of the final report.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer researcher, you can sign up for our mailing list here.

Volunteering as a student co-ordinator

Each OPBP project is co-ordinated by one or more graduate students with interest or expertise in the relevant area(s) of law. Student co-ordinators are responsible for selecting and supporting volunteer researchers, organising meetings, delegating research and drafting tasks, liaising with the project partner, and compiling and editing the final report. As a result, co-ordinators need to have excellent organisational and communication skills and a genuine commitment to producing a high-quality and timely project. Co-ordinators receive ongoing support from our Executive Committee and from the project’s Faculty supervisor.

If you’re interested in becoming a student co-ordinator, please contact us at any time at opbp@law.ox.ac.uk and tell us about your background and area(s) of expertise. This will allow us to get in touch with you if and when we receive an appropriate project proposal.

Acting as a Faculty supervisor

Each OPBP project is supervised by one or more members of the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Law. The role of the Faculty supervisor is to provide guidance and support to the student co-ordinators as the project takes shape, and to provide substantive critical feedback on the consolidated report. Faculty supervision, along with our rigorous approval process, is an important part of our commitment to ensuring that our reports are of the highest possible calibre.

Making a project proposal

If you or your organisation works pro bono, and would benefit from high-quality international or comparative law research, OPBP would be delighted to hear from you with either an enquiry or a project proposal (our proposal form can be downloaded here).

By nature and by choice, [our] cases are factually and legally complex. We often face opponents who are better resourced. In this climate, having access to the best legal minds in the world through OPBP gives us an invaluable edge when we prepare for our most difficult cases. – Sarah Sephton, Director, Legal Resources Centre (Grahamstown Office)

In addition, if your organisation might benefit from hosting an intern from the University of Oxford, you can contact us to find out more about the OPBP Internship Programme.

For OPBP’s purposes, pro bono work is work which is done for the public good or in the public interest and without charge. This includes work undertaken:

  • for legal or natural persons worldwide, incorporated or unincorporated, of limited means;
  • for charitable or other non-profit organisations; and/or
  • on matters involving issues of public importance.

OPBP’s criteria for accepting project proposals are:

  • the legal significance or novelty of the suggested research;
  • member interest and expertise in the suggested research;
  • the specificity of the proposed research questions;
  • the feasibility of completing the work as a discrete task or series of tasks;
  • the need to ensure that the reputation of the Oxford Law Faculty and the University as a whole is maintained;
  • the credibility and reputation of the project partner; and
  • the willingness of the project partner to provide direction and feedback.

If you already have a clear idea about your own or your organisation’s needs, you can submit your project proposal via email to opbp@law.ox.ac.uk. You can also contact us to discuss the assistance OPBP can provide; we are happy to work collaboratively with prospective project partners in developing a viable proposal.