Rachel Orme: 'Volunteering gave me valuable team working experience'

29 October 2015

Rachel Orme, human rights lawyer for the Ministry of Justice, Government Legal Department, talks about how volunteering gave her skills and experience she uses now in her job...

In my first year at university I volunteered with a project linked to a Ugandan education charity. I fundraised for the charity throughout the academic year; that meant everything from organising gigs and sponsored events to selling cakes. In the summer, I went to Uganda to help local people build classrooms with the money we’d raised. The year after, I became one of the project's leaders.

While at law school, I volunteered with a human rights project. I spent my time researching abuses and drafting letters to relevant governments and authorities. Then, during my time as a trainee solicitor, I did pro bono (voluntary) legal work at law centres in London, giving free legal advice to people.

Volunteering gave me valuable team working and leadership experience. I worked with lots of different people too, from fellow students to donor businesses, charity officials and Ugandan builders. This really improved my communication skills; it meant I had to adapt my approach. Doing so was a challenge at first, but has made me more confident and resourceful.

I now use the skills I developed in leading and communicating with different people in my job as a lawyer. My current role involves advising government officials and Ministers on UK human rights obligations. I also help coordinate human rights policy across government, and undertake casework on cases involving the UK in the European Court of Human Rights. My volunteering experience helped me at the application and interview stage. It meant I could give genuine and interesting examples of using these skills. Volunteering taught me I could cope with high pressure situations so I knew then I could handle a demanding career in law.

Volunteering is rewarding and fun. It’s a brilliant way to meet like-minded people and make friends. It’s also an incredible way to gain vital work experience and transferable skills. I’d say just find something you’re interested in and give it a try. Volunteering does change lives, including your own.

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