NUS Law students lauded for pro bono initiatives

12 April 2018 | General News
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Students recognised for bringing together undergraduates from the wider NUS community to collaborate in community service and pro bono work

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law today recognised 11 students for their outstanding leadership and contributions in pro bono projects, and awarded financial grants to support six deserving pro bono projects at the 3rd NUS Law Pro Bono Awards Ceremony.

NUS Law Pro Bono Awards.jpg

NUS Law students recognised for their outstanding leadership and contributions in pro bono projects. 

This year’s honourees were conferred awards in two categories - The Pro Bono Leadership Award and the Special Recognition Award. Three financial grants - the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award, the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award and the NUS Law Class of 2017 Pro Bono Award – were also presented to support student pro bono projects.

Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Law said, “Pro bono work is now part of the culture at NUS Law. We encourage all our students to see law not only as a profession, but as a vocation. The students recognised tonight reflect the very best qualities we hope to cultivate: outstanding minds complemented by caring hearts. I congratulate all the award winners -- as well as the many students not receiving prizes, who gave their time and their energy to support the disadvantaged in our community.”

Collaborating in community service and pro bono work

Among today’s award recipients were two students, Siew Jowen and Loh Yaxin, who have led a pioneering project – called the CDC-NUS Lasting Power of Attorney Community Outreach Project - that brings together undergraduates from across the university to engage in pro bono and community work. Besides recruiting fellow NUS Law students, Jowen and Yaxin reached out to students from other NUS faculties such as the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences to engage in a project that brings the services of executing Lasting Powers of Attorney directly to the community. To maintain high service standards, student volunteers were trained by Associate Professor Lim Lei Theng from NUS Law, ensuring that they were aware of their limitations and to enhance the level of assistance the students could provide the lawyers.

Having students from other NUS faculties engaged in community service enhanced both law and non-law students’ awareness of the community’s needs, and allowed non-law students the opportunity to partner law students in bringing greater awareness of legal services to the community.

A joint collaboration between the Community Development Councils (CDCs), the People’s Association and the NUS Law Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education (PBCLE), a pilot run of the project was held between May and June 2017 in the estates of Woodlands, Pasir Ris and Eunos. More than 300 members of the public attended informative talks on Lasting Powers of Attorney, of which 45 signed up to do a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and 31 LPA were certified and submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian.

As the project is targeted at lower income families, PBCLE conducted a means test and eligible participants were either provided the service for free, or only had to pay a fixed low fee set by PBCLE which covered the disbursements of volunteer lawyers from Dorothy Chai and Mary Ong Law Practice, Eden Law Corporation and Dentons Rodyk LLC who participated in the project. 

The project is now a formal part of the collaboration announced in September 2017 through a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the three Singapore law schools and the CDCs. Plans are underway to bring the project to nursing homes and eldercare institutions.

Pro Bono Awards and Financial Grants

a) Pro Bono Leadership Award

The Pro Bono Leadership Award recognises law students who have shown outstanding leadership and commitment toward pro bono work on a sustained basis, and whose contributions have led to significant developments in pro bono opportunities for law students. 

This year’s award recipients include law students who have worked on raising legal awareness and knowledge among youths; as well as those who assisted voluntary welfare organisations in working with litigants to make court applications to be legal representatives of mentally incapacitated children.

The 2018 Pro Bono Leadership Award recipients are:

  • Loh Yaxin (CDC-NUS Lasting Power of Attorney Community Outreach Project)
  • Siew Jowen (CDC-NUS Lasting Power of Attorney Community Outreach Project)
  • Teo Ang Siang (LEAP, NUS Law Criminal Justice Club)
  • Chong Renjie (Military Justice Project)
  • Joelle Loy (NUS Law Criminal Justice Club, Criminal Legal Aid Scheme)
  • Tan Kah Wai (NUS Pro Bono Office In-Person Deputyship Programme)
  • Teo Tze She (NUS-Rajah & Tann PDPA Compliance Assistance Scheme)
  • Zhu Yujia (NUS-Rajah & Tann PDPA Compliance Assistance Scheme)

b) Special Recognition Award

This is awarded to students who have demonstrated a commitment to and passion for pro bono work in a sustained manner. Student leaders who receive this award have gone beyond the demands of their office to lead and inspire. Recipients also include students who have shown persistent effort, commitment and a passion towards providing quality pro bono services.

The 2018 recipients of the Special Recognition Award are:

  • Shawn Callen Kwa Shao (NUS Pro Bono Office In-Person Deputyship Programme)
  • Liang Liwen (NUS Pro Bono Office Legal Awareness Talks)
  • Janna Wong Qian Ern (The Necessary Good)

Please refer to the Annex for more information on the awards and award recipients.

c) RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award

This award is a tribute to the legacy of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s late Senior Partner – Mr Subhas Anandan, who was a prominent criminal lawyer in Singapore and a champion of pro bono work. Initiated in 2016, the award will provide S$25,000 over a period of five years to fund deserving pro bono projects or programmes initiated by NUS Law students. A cash award of up to S$5,000 will be given out yearly to support a deserving project.

This year, the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award 2018 was presented to the Witness Orientation Project.

d) NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award

This award was established in 2016 through a S$20,000 gift from the NUS Law Class of 1992. Each year, up to three awards of up to S$2,500 will be granted to support sustainable pro bono projects with a catalytic effect. These are projects that galvanise attention and efforts towards a worthy cause to which NUS Law students can provide significant contributions.

The NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award was presented to the following three projects: 

  • Military Justice Project – the project has been serving as a bridge between the Singapore Armed Forces, lawyers and law students so that accused servicemen are able to obtain access to pro bono legal support.
  • Mental Capacity Act Deputyship Guidebook Project – The aim of the project is to produce a guide book for Litigants in Person with their Deputyship applications.
  • The NUS Law Criminal Justice Club is a student-led club established in September 2009 with the purpose to carry out pro bono work in the area of criminal law. Besides its Innocence Project founded in 2012, the NUS Law Criminal Justice Club has expanded its activities to include Military Justice Project, the NPCC Law Course and various other projects relating to criminal law.

e) NUS Law Class of 2017 Pro Bono Award

This award was established in 2017 with proceeds from a concert written, produced and performed by the graduating NUS Law class of 2017. Each year, up to two awards of up to S$1,000 will be granted to support pro bono or community service projects.

The NUS Law Class of 2017 Pro Bono Award was presented to the following two projects: 

  • Legal Education and Awareness Programme – This project brings legal awareness to youths-at-risk through peer learning, where NUS Law students run interactive workshops on specific topics.
  • The Necessary Good is a social enterprise project supervised by Associate Professor Stephen Phua that seeks to benefit underprivileged individuals.

Pro bono work at NUS Law

NUS Law had always had student-led pro bono activities and it became more centralised with the setting up of Singapore’s first student-run pro bono group, the NUS Pro Bono Group, in February 2005. Pro bono work in the area of criminal law gained impetus with the establishment of the student-led NUS Law Criminal Justice Club in September 2009. The NUS Pro Bono Group has since grown into a student organisation comprising over 200 law students and has expanded its work to focus on legal issues relating to migrant workers. The NUS Law Criminal Justice Club, on the other hand, has progressed from its Innocence Project, which is a student-led initiative that seeks to provide recourse to individuals who believe they have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, to new projects involving Military Justice. 

In tandem with the development of student-led pro bono initiatives, NUS Law set up the Pro Bono Office (PBO) in September 2012 to oversee the implementation of the Mandatory Pro Bono Programme, which requires law students to fulfil 20 mandatory hours of pro bono work prior to graduation. PBO launched the online portal ‘Start Now Law’ in March 2014 to further encourage and enhance NUS law students’ involvement in pro bono activities. In October 2017, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Ms Indranee Rajah officiated the launch of the NUS Law Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education.

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