To celebrate Volunteering Week, CONNECTED is sharing the inspirational stories of some of our alumni who volunteer. Today, we hear from Rachel Moore, who is a longstanding volunteer with the University of Reading’s School of Law.
Rachel studied Law at the University of Reading and has fond memories of her time at the University. Looking back at her studies she credits Sandy Ghandi, her tort tutor, with her love of tort law and injury claims, and remembers how he “had a habit of throwing five questions at you during a tutorial and expecting you to remember the questions and answer them in order. It was hard work and many hours were spent working in the library or with chocolate muffins in the café.”
Rachel added that university life back then was very different to nowadays.
She said: “Essays were typed up on an electronic typewriter or handwritten. No-one used email. Mobile phones were rare, although I had one of the early mobiles that I kept in a box on a shelf in my room. I switched it on at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon so my parents could phone me!”
After graduating and studying for her Legal Practice Course, Rachel took some time out to travel to New Zealand, and then began her legal career. She qualified into defence personal injury litigation and in 2002 moved to her present firm, Kennedys, where she is now a partner in the Serious and Catastrophic Injury team.
Opening up opportunities
Rachel started volunteering with the School of Law in 2011, because she felt that it was important for students to understand why their studies are relevant in a practical context. Rachel said: “Studying the academic side was never enough for me. I always wanted to know how it would make a difference to someone and how I could use those skills practically.”
Every year, Rachel spends an afternoon training a group of around 40 students on client interviewing skills. Rachel said: “The sessions are interactive, giving lots of practical examples as to why the skills are important. There is also a workshop element where students can try out their skills and interview members of the School who have been trained to act like the most difficult [and often emotional] clients – Emeritus Professor Patricia Leopold’s tears and histrionics during the mock interviews were legendary!”
“It’s wonderful to see that lightbulb moment when a student tries client interviewing for the first time and realises they can actually interview a ‘client’ and give them basic advice.”
Rachel is also a judge for the internal School of Law client interviewing competition. The winners of the competition go through to the regional competition and can then progress to the finals. The winners are also invited to the Kennedys’ office in London for an insight day.
In addition to this, Rachel also sits on the Pro Bono and Co-Curricular Committee which manages the Patricia Leopold Fund and helps coordinate and provide support to the students undertaking pro bono law related activities.
Explaining why she decided to volunteer, Rachel said: “Competition for legal jobs is so tough that I am keen to help open up opportunities and give insights to Reading students which they might not otherwise have. Extra-curricular activities such as the School of Law client interviewing competition will help make a difference to someone’s employability once they leave the University.”
Rachel was nominated for the Alumni and Supporter Volunteer of the Year Award at this year’s Celebration of Volunteering. She described it as “a total shock.” She continued: “I was absolutely delighted to find out that the work I have done with the University means so much to the School of Law.”
Rachel added that volunteering is “what makes society work. I think it is important that different generations engage more with each other. So many people have helped me over the years in one way or another. Every connection helps break down barriers.
“Many students do not have connections with anyone in the law. I hope that by meeting and working with the students, even on this limited basis, that it gives someone who would like to progress a career in law a contact point. It helps to have someone you can turn to, to help point you in the right direction, or just give you that insight into what it means to be a lawyer.
“Volunteering can be as little as a few hours a year but the rewards are immeasurable. If you’ve never volunteered before, I’d ask, what is stopping you? One of the winners at the Celebration of Volunteering event quoted Winston Churchill, who said ‘we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give’. I think that says it all really!”
If Rachel’s story has inspired you and you’d like to volunteer for your School or Department, please email our Alumni Volunteering Officer, Rachel Dean.