Welcome to Vocalise! We are a student-led prison debating initiative administered by the Inn’s Education Department.
A unique volunteering opportunity
At a time when prison education departments are overstretched and under-resourced, Vocalise mentors can make a real difference to prison inmates through honing and sharing their public speaking skills.
For the first time, somebody is really listening to what I’m saying.
Vocalise was founded in 2010 by two student members of the Inn, Alex Just and Florence Iveson, inspired by a longstanding scheme at Cornell University. Our award-winning scheme is the first of its kind in the UK and has now been running for over ten years.
Vocalise harnesses the enthusiasm of current law students to bring the benefits of debate training to prison inmates across London. Aspiring barristers are trained as debate mentors over the Michaelmas (Autumn) term. In past years, we have partnered with HMP Pentonville, HMP Brixton, HMP Downview, HMP Thameside, YOI ISIS, HMP Feltham and HMP Wandsworth.
Vocalise offers a lot to anyone wanting to become a barrister, including:
- Debating and advocacy skills: Even if you’ve tried mooting, debating is a very different skillset and style of speaking that can complement and develop your advocacy in another area.
- Interview material: Going into prisons and interacted with prisoners is something that can really interest both criminal bar sets and sets generally in your pupillage interviews.
- Learning opportunities: A huge part of succeeding at the Bar is having a real interest in what you do and who you work with. For anyone interested in criminal justice reform and related topics, this is a great way to see the system up close.
- Teaching skills: Teaching is harder than most people think, and overlaps with a lot of what barristers need to do – breaking down concepts to explain to others concisely and simply.
- Mock pupillage interviews: We arrange mock pupillage interviews as a thank you for all our volunteers, conducted by a range of barristers and pupils at both criminal and civil sets.
Even more importantly than what it can do for you, this is also an incredible opportunity to make a difference. Prison isn’t normally an environment where people stop and take the time to listen. Helping prison inmates develop their advocacy skills and confidence helps them with life inside and after prison.