New awards recognise NUS Law students for pro bono activities

02 March 2016 | General News
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Two new grants - NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award and the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award – provide financial support for student pro bono projects

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law today celebrated the outstanding contributions of seven law students towards pro bono work, and awarded grants to support four deserving student pro bono projects at the inaugural NUS Law Pro Bono Awards Ceremony. Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance, Ms Indranee Rajah, who was the Guest-of-Honour for the event, presented the awards at the event today.

The awards for individuals were presented in two categories, namely the Pro Bono Champion Award and the Pro Bono Leadership Award. The two grants presented to student pro bono projects were the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award and the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award.

Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of the NUS Faculty of Law, said, “The benefits of pro bono work are many. First, you really can make a difference in someone’s life. For people who have made a mistake, or fallen on hard times, or have just been unlucky, the support of a pro bono lawyer or student can be a lifesaver. Secondly, for the law student, you get real experience. Working with actual clients on actual cases brings the law to life, enabling you to see what law is like in action – and how different it can be from law in the books. Thirdly, for many students and lawyers, pro bono work reminds us all that the rewards of being a lawyer are more than financial. The ability to help your community – to help the last, the lost, and the least – can be what sustains you, what gets you up in the morning and sees you through the day.”

“Students don’t do it for money and they don’t do it for recognition. We don’t grade them; no one gets an “A”. But today we celebrate some of the most committed, to recognise their achievements – and use them to encourage and inspire others,” Prof Chesterman added.

NUS Law had always had student-led pro bono activities but the organisation was more centralised with the setting up of the NUS Pro Bono Group, Singapore’s first student-run pro bono group, in February 2005. Pro bono work in the area of criminal law gained impetus with the establishment of the student-led Criminal Justice Club in September 2009. The NUS Pro Bono Group has since grown into a student organisation comprising over 200 law students and it has expanded its work to focus on legal issues relating to migrant workers. The 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.

Pro Bono Champion Award

The Pro Bono Champion Award recognises young alumni of NUS Law who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions towards pro bono work that have spanned several years of their time in law school, and continued with the work beyond graduation, and whose leadership and contributions have led to significant developments in pro bono opportunities for law students.

The 2016 Pro Bono Champion Award was conferred on Mr Ng Bin Hong, an NUS law alumnus from the Class of 2014.

Pro Bono Leadership Awards

The Pro Bono Leadership Awards recognise law students who have shown outstanding leadership and commitment towards 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 developed mechanisms to increase access to justice in criminal and military law while working closely with government agencies and stakeholders; students who have worked tirelessly on migrant worker issues; as well as students who have assisted in enabling voluntary welfare organisations to comply with data protection laws.

The 2016 Pro Bono Leadership Award recipients are:

  • Mr Joshua Matthew Goh (Class of 2017)
  • Ms Lim Wei Zhen (Class of 2017)
  • Ms Lye Yuan Jun (Class of 2015)
  • Mr Lennart Ng (Class of 2016)
  • Mr Kenneth Wang Ye (Class of 2016)
  • Mr Mitchell Yeo (Class of 2014)

NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award

This award was established through a S$20,000 gift from the NUS Law Class of 1992. Each year, up to 3 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 2016 recipients of the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono Award are:

  • Innocence Project (Singapore)
  • Military Justice Project
  • NUS Adult Protection Research Team

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. The award will provide S$25,000 over a period of 5 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.

The 2016 recipient of the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award is the Criminal Justice Club.

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