In celebration of National Pro Bono Week, we will be featuring students’ experiences of pro bono work while at Oxford. In our first post, Chintan Chandrachud reflects on his experiences volunteering on Oxford Pro Bono Publico research projects.
It has been almost a year since I first volunteered to assist Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) with a report on food marketing and advertising, submitted to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Twelve months and several projects later, I continue to remain actively involved with the organisation, finding that every project provides a unique opportunity for learning and a rich set of experiences. OPBP is a group of postgraduate law students and faculty members at the University of Oxford dedicated to the pro bono practice of public interest law. It typically undertakes pro bono research on a wide variety of cases every year. I had the opportunity to contribute in areas as diverse as hate speech laws, parliamentary privilege and arbitrary executions.
Several factors motivated me to volunteer for OPBP projects on a regular basis. In the academic community at Oxford, I began to wonder whether my research and study had any immediate impact on the practice of law. OPBP bridged this gap between theory and practice. My research and analysis of the law was not only academically rewarding, but also had a visible impact on the development of the law in different jurisdictions. It was very satisfying to research customary inheritance law and to see that research put to use in the High Court of Botswana’s judgment affirming equal inheritance rights for men and women, barely a few weeks later! I also found volunteering for pro bono projects a productive way of giving back to the community through the medium in which I am most comfortable.
There is much to be gained from volunteering for OPBP’s projects. Apart from seeing your research produce results in practice, volunteering makes you stretch the limits of your academic knowledge and think strategically about how the law works in a given situation. You get the privilege of interacting with some of the finest practitioners, judges and academics from across the world. At the commencement of Pro Bono Week in the UK, I encourage students to contribute to pro bono projects undertaken by OPBP and other organisations.
Chintan is a MPhil Candidate in Law at the University of Oxford. He has been an invaluable member of OPBP, contributing to five research projects in a year.