Why volunteer with PBSC McGill?
PBSC provides you with the opportunity to be involved in the Montreal community, and to use your legal skills to help others. Being involved with PBSC McGill means you will get to work with a community organization that needs your help. It's also an excellent chance to develop and practice legal skills from the beginning of your law school career. Many of our organizations return year after year, so if you really enjoy your placement you can keep working with the same organization - and build strong ties - all through law school. Finally, PBSC believes that all lawyers and law students should give back to the communities in which they live, work, and attend school. It is our hope that PBSC will be the beginning of a long pro bono commitment stretching throughout your legal career.
What kinds of work do PBSC McGill volunteers do?
PBSC McGill volunteers do a variety of work. These include: researching different legal topics and producing fact sheets based on your findings, drafting and writing legal briefs, preparing and delivering public legal education seminars where you present legal information on a specific topic to members of the public, client intake, and directly providing clients with legal information in response to their questions. Remember that all the different types of legal work you may be doing with PBSC is important. While to some client intake seems more exciting and interesting than legal research, both develop important skills you will need throughout your legal career. You will also find that many of our placements offer both research and another type of legal work.
How much work does a PBSC McGill placement involve?
PBSC student volunteers work 3-5 hours each week for five months: October, November, January, February and March. You are not expected to work during December or April due to exams. Some organizations want or require (depending on the type of work you are doing) the PBSC volunteers to come in for weekly shifts. Others allow you to work from home on a more flexible basis. If you consistently put in your hours each week, you'll complete your projects by the deadlines and won't have to worry about extra work piling up at the end of each semester.
Do I need to be bilingual in order to obtain a PBSC McGill placement?
Being comfortable in both written and spoken French and English is an asset. However, not all projects require this. Some projects are better suited for francophones, and others for anglophones. If a certain language level is required for a specific project, the project descriptions document will clearly state this.
What kind of support and training do I get from PBSC McGill?
All PBSC McGill volunteers must attend a mandatory training session in September. The training gives you an opportunity to meet the PBSC McGill Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinators and your fellow PBSC volunteers, outlines the timeline and deadlines for the year, and provides important information both on the difference between legal advice and legal information, and on ethics and professionalism. There is also a WestLaw research training in October which is mandatory for all first year law student PBSC volunteers and encouraged for all upper year volunteers. Aside from the training sessions, you can expect email check ins from the program coordinator or volunteer coordinator in October and January, and telephone check ins in November and February. If you have any problems or concerns during the year, please do not hesitate to contact the Program Coordinators - Alexandra Ghelerter and Khorshid Rad - by telephone or email right away. They are here to help make your PBSC experience a positive one.
What kind of support and training do I get from the community organization and the supervising lawyer?
With every placement, you will have an initial meeting and information training/introduction to the organization with your contact person there. Once the projects really get going, the amount of contact you have with the community organization and the supervising lawyer depends on the nature of the placement. If you have weekly shifts at your organization, you will have more contact than if you do a lot of your work from home. Before you turn in any research memos or present a public legal education seminar, your lawyer supervisor must look over and approve your work. It is important to plan ahead and set meeting dates with your supervising lawyer a few weeks before the end of the semester or your public legal education seminar to go over your work. This also gives you time to make any suggested changes before the end of the semester or the seminar.
What kinds of organizations does PBSC McGill partner with?
PBSC McGill partners with approximately 20 different community organizations located throughout Montreal. Our organizations work with or for refugees, immigrants, the LGBT community, women, and low income individuals, among others, and the work may be in administrative, business, Charter and constitutional, criminal, elderly, employment, and poverty law among others.