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scoobysnacks

Getting involved in queen’s clinics in 1L

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Hey guys,

I’m going to be starting 1L in September, and was wondering if 1L students can volunteer at clinics. Is it a good idea to do so, or is the time commitment too much?

 

I really liked the community vibe during welcome day; it really made me excited not only for law school, but also to get involved in the law school community

 

 

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Congratulations and welcome to Queen's!

I volunteered during my first year at Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) instead.  I was in a group of three and we researched the legal recourse available to a cottage association that were concerned about a waterfront landowner damaging fish habitat by dumping gravel in the lake.  It involved quite a few meetings with different people, including practising real estate and environmental lawyers, lots of research and then writing a memo to the association on what their legal options were.  It was pretty interesting to see how landowners' rights are balanced with their responsibility for the environment.  There are lots of interesting projects available; just have a look at pbscqueens.com.

This year I am working at Queen's Legal Aid for credit, which I highly recommend.  As a for-credit student, I have six files currently, and have been involved in many areas: a provincial offences trial, criminal guilty plea and sentencing, tenancy, income support appeal and a dog-bite file in small claims (chihuahua v dobermann: they settled!).  On the other hand, our student volunteers (who are mostly first-years but not all) are usually working on one file at a time, and sometimes none.  Usually there is a certain proportion of our files where the client is very difficult to reach and takes a long time to give you info you need.  If you happen to get a client like that as your one file, it's not going to be a very interesting year.  The volunteers get some general training and mentorship from upper-year group leaders, but their opportunity to work with the review counsel at the clinic is also limited.

So I'd advise PBSC first and then QLA, or one of the other clinics, in upper years.  The only situation where it might be better to volunteer at QLA is if you want to work at QLA or one of the other clinics during your summer after first year; that experience is reportedly excellent.  Already being involved as a volunteer is not essential to get hired, but it is a definite plus.

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Your 1st sentence (aka 1st paragraph),  along with the first 2 sentences of your second para, and the 1st sentence of your third para, have totally identified you.  If anonymity matters to you, you may want to try and redact.... but the mods have a strict rule about only doing so in the first hour.

Having said that, I really like your enthusiasm and helping attitude to an incoming 1L. 

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I’m a current Queens 1L, welcome and congratulations! 

There are some limited spots for clinics in 1L, volunteering with QLA. I applied but didn’t get in, it was quite competitive. I’m now approved to work in a for crédit upper year clinic though, and I don’t think I’ve lost too much. It’s a cool experience, but there are plenty of clubs to get involved in. PBSC is a great one if you’re passionate about access to justice. Queen’s Law Journal is great for developing research skills, and there are dozens of clubs on top of that to help you balance your school work with social elements. Advice I was given, and I think it was good, was choose no more than 2-3 things (3 if you’re in a low-effort club). 1L is intense, you want to do some other things but don’t overcommit and become stressed trying to manage things. 

Also, even if you don’t volunteer in the clinic in 1L, you can apply to work in most clinics for a summer job. So not volunteering doesn’t close that door. 

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I’m assuming there’s some sort of club day/ week where we can go talk to people who are part of or run the clubs? Any suggestions on clubs to look into?

 

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There is a club day! It happens after the journal, clinic, and PBSC recruits so you know how many other things you have going on. There are so many good ones, just show up and see what seems good :) 

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I'm currently a 1L volunteering at Queen's Legal Aid (though it's winding down now since exams are coming up). I also did the Queen's Law Journal, and a PBSC project and I would recommend legal aid over both of them; for me personally, legal aid has definitely been the most compelling and inspiring extracurricular thing I've gotten to do all year.

I personally found the clinic to be quite time consuming in first semester, but that's really because the file I was on was scheduled for a hearing in late November. That being said, representing my client at that hearing has easily been the highlight of my 1L experience. And if I had really felt that I couldn't keep up with all the work demanded of me between school and legal aid, I could have asked the legal aid lawyers to assign the file to a credit student (but I was really excited about the opportunity to do a hearing so I didn't). Let me know if you have any more questions!

Edited by LegallyBrownEyedGirl

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I'm a 3L at Queen's and I'd like to second basically what everyone else said.

There's only a few things I'd like to add.

1. Volunteering with QLA can really be hit/miss depending on a lot of variables. Those variables include: the group you're assigned to, files distributed to said group, what files you actually end up with, and, of course your actual interests. QLA deals with a lot of different types of matters, but some of those types of matters are more common than others. You can express a preference to your group leader, but at the end of the day they can only do so much because it all depends on what walks in the door. Also, I know some people have had QLA experiences where they basically (and I quote) "babysat a file" all year and didn't get to do any substantive work. This is not to say that this is the norm, but just that it can happen. 

2. Depending on your area of interest a PBSC project may be more valuable to you and your experience. There are PBSC projects available in a wider variety of areas - this year that included but was not limited to: immigration law, business/corporate law, family law, entertainment law, mental health law, and human rights. I did both QLA as a volunteer and PBSC and found the PBSC project much more useful to me personally.

3. Also, if you are interested in family law I know the family law clinic usually recruits a couple of 1Ls though it's generally quite competitive.

Anyway, welcome to QL!

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13 hours ago, LegallyBrownEyedGirl said:

I'm currently a 1L volunteering at Queen's Legal Aid (though it's winding down now since exams are coming up). I also did the Queen's Law Journal, and a PBSC project and I would recommend legal aid over both of them; for me personally, legal aid has definitely been the most compelling and inspiring extracurricular thing I've gotten to do all year.

I personally found the clinic to be quite time consuming in first semester, but that's really because the file I was on was scheduled for a hearing in late November. That being said, representing my client at that hearing has easily been the highlight of my 1L experience. And if I had really felt that I couldn't keep up with all the work demanded of me between school and legal aid, I could have asked the legal aid lawyers to assign the file to a credit student (but I was really excited about the opportunity to do a hearing so I didn't). Let me know if you have any more questions!

That sounds really cool! How many 1L volunteers were there working for legal aid? 

 

13 hours ago, SlytherinKali said:

I'm a 3L at Queen's and I'd like to second basically what everyone else said.

There's only a few things I'd like to add.

1. Volunteering with QLA can really be hit/miss depending on a lot of variables. Those variables include: the group you're assigned to, files distributed to said group, what files you actually end up with, and, of course your actual interests. QLA deals with a lot of different types of matters, but some of those types of matters are more common than others. You can express a preference to your group leader, but at the end of the day they can only do so much because it all depends on what walks in the door. Also, I know some people have had QLA experiences where they basically (and I quote) "babysat a file" all year and didn't get to do any substantive work. This is not to say that this is the norm, but just that it can happen. 

2. Depending on your area of interest a PBSC project may be more valuable to you and your experience. There are PBSC projects available in a wider variety of areas - this year that included but was not limited to: immigration law, business/corporate law, family law, entertainment law, mental health law, and human rights. I did both QLA as a volunteer and PBSC and found the PBSC project much more useful to me personally.

3. Also, if you are interested in family law I know the family law clinic usually recruits a couple of 1Ls though it's generally quite competitive.

Anyway, welcome to QL!

What types of files would be most common? When babysitting a file, do you mean that they were just doing a bit of paperwork here and there?

Thanks for all the info guys

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10 hours ago, scoobysnacks said:

What types of files would be most common? When babysitting a file, do you mean that they were just doing a bit of paperwork here and there?

Thanks for all the info guys

In my experience by far the most common file type is landlord-tenant with the second most common probably being disability benefits files. As for babysitting a file, what that means can vary. Most likely it means there was no substantive work they got to do on the file - likely because the client disappeared off the radar/wasn't bringing them documents they needed/etc. Again, not necessarily the most common experience, but I have heard it from a few different people.

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8 hours ago, SlytherinKali said:

In my experience by far the most common file type is landlord-tenant with the second most common probably being disability benefits files. As for babysitting a file, what that means can vary. Most likely it means there was no substantive work they got to do on the file - likely because the client disappeared off the radar/wasn't bringing them documents they needed/etc. Again, not necessarily the most common experience, but I have heard it from a few different people.

When that happens, they can always ask for another file....

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On 3/21/2018 at 10:03 PM, scoobysnacks said:

That sounds really cool! How many 1L volunteers were there working for legal aid? 

 

I think there's about 25 of us. It's pretty competitive, so apply broadly (to the journals and PBSC projects too). Also if you're keen on getting practical experience with file management, I'd also recommend applying for the PBSC Family Law Project - you'll get to do a lot of legal aid type work, but with family law files. Even if you're not interested in family law as a career path, it's still great experience and you can still highlight the same skills (file management, client interaction, professionalism) on a resume as you would with the legal aid clinic itself.

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