Why I want to make volunteering a lifelong habit
If you’re thinking of volunteering, I’d say in a sentence, ‘just do it’.
Michael Zámečník, Trainee Solicitor
I began volunteering earlier than most people. I did an International Baccalaureate in Prague. It’s unusual in that it has a big emphasis on community service and volunteering. Every student must do a unit called ‘creativity, action, service’ or (CAS) for short. It was something I really enjoyed. So when I moved to London to go to university, it was natural for me to carry on.
I started my history course at Queen Mary in September 2011. I got straight in touch with the university’s volunteering society. Being a historian meant I had a lot of spare time to commit to volunteering too! I was interested in volunteering as a way to develop transferrable skills. It was a great way to meet new people, both inside and outside of university. I learned a lot.
By the time I reached my final year, I’d decided that I wanted to work in law. I contacted Hackney CAB directly, and the rest is history! I started in October 2013, and carried on until the following summer. As I had no legal qualifications at the time, I was given the role of ‘gateway assessor’. That meant I would interview clients coming into the centre. My job was to decide whether they needed legal advice or just signposting the right direction. A big part of my role was listening to people facing considerable challenges with housing or debt. I had to show quite a degree of empathy.
I’m now studying for a Master’s degree in professional legal practice. I’ve got my last two exams coming up. Then I’m a free man! I’ve already got a job lined up. I’ll be joining Squire Patton Boggs as a trainee solicitor. I’d say volunteering definitely came up in all my interviews. It’s always been a talking point. I think employers look for evidence of commitment. They also want to look for skills that are relevant in law. For example, being a team player, able to quickly grasp and analyse information and good communication skills. I had all these to offer, thanks to volunteering.
Personally, I’m hoping to make volunteering a lifelong habit. I think most people with larger law firms in London at one point or another get involved in pro bono work. My firm has connections with the CAB, Battersea Legal Advice Centre and Toynbee Hall in Shoreditch. I’ll be working with them both, first as a trainee solicitor and later as an associate.
If you’re thinking of volunteering, I’d say in a sentence, ‘just do it’. I believe it can be incredibly valuable in terms of career prospects.