Law student attitudes towards pro bono and voluntary work: The experience at Northumbria University


  • Paul McKeown Northumbria University, UK



This study considers whether participation in pro bono legal work during a programme of academic study at Northumbria University increases the likelihood of future participation in pro bono activity amongst law students.

This was a quantitative study in which an online survey, measuring altruistic attitudes, was sent to students enrolled on the M Law Exempting degree programme at Northumbria University. The author analysed the data by comparing the attitudes of those students who had engaged in pro bono activity during the fourth year of the programme against those students who had yet to engage in pro bono activity, being those students in Years 1, 2 and 3 of the programme.

The data suggests that whilst the students value engagement in pro bono activity, this is principally due to the personal benefits which they gain. In particular, respondents reported improvement in legal skills and enhanced employability as a consequence of participation in pro bono work. The data indicates that there is an increased awareness of social and economic issues whilst engaged in pro bono work but this does not translate into a desire to continue pro bono work after graduation.

It was therefore concluded that participation in pro bono work during the course of academic study does not increase the likelihood of future participation in pro bono activity following graduation.