Pro bono legal services for arts sector

(Front row from left) SAM Director of Curatorial Programmes and Publications Ms June Yap, Prof Chesterman and STPI Executive Director Ms Emi Eu signing the MOU, witnessed by Mr Tong (back row, middle); Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education co-directors Assoc Prof Lim Lei Theng (back row, 2nd from left) and Assoc Prof Ruby Lee (back row, far right); and museum staff.

Students from NUS Law can look forward to gaining exposure to new areas of legal practice ranging from intellectual property to financing and personal property law, with the establishment of a new pro bono legal services programme. Called Arts in Clinical Education (ARTICLE), the five-year programme is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on 5 April between NUS Law and Singapore’s Visual Arts Cluster’s three institutions, Singapore Art Museum (SAM), National Gallery Singapore and the STPI-Creative Workshop & Gallery.

NUS Law Dean Professor Simon Chesterman said the MOU is a collaborative effort that combines to match the skills and talents of NUS Law clinical staff and students with the legal needs of the three institutes of public character. “This novel MOU shows how lawyers can contribute in other sectors and in other ways, supporting the arts in particular and incorporating corporate and transactional work – the role of lawyers whose job is to try to make sure that some things never go to court. It will provide valuable experience to our students and, we hope, a valuable service to Singapore’s arts sector,” he said.

ARTICLE is the second formal arrangement under the clinical legal education programme at NUS Law. The first was an MOU signed with the Legal Aid Bureau in 2010, enabling NUS Law students to work on live legal cases, appearing in court with their professors and drafting documents for court matters.

Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Mr Edwin Tong who witnessed the signing of the MOU, said the programmes offered by NUS Law now are very different from the days he was an undergraduate at the University almost 30 years ago. “Today, I think the way in which Law is taught is so much more vibrant, so much more practical…you learn the law by going out there into the community, even before you become a full-fledged lawyer, to help people gain access to justice. The practice of law is entirely practical. We don’t study it behind an office somewhere. We are serving the needs of society and the community.”


Mr Tong with NUS Pro Bono Awards recipients, NUS Law staff and students

The 4th Annual NUS Pro Bono Awards held in conjunction with the MOU, recognised 13 students and a mentor for their outstanding leadership and contributions in pro bono projects. Among the eight 2019 Pro Bono Leadership Award honourees for outstanding leadership and commitment to pro bono work was Year 3 student Sandra Faith Angelica Tan who leads a group of 12 students on deputyship applications for Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). She also headed the development of a Deputyship Guidebook aimed at helping laypersons navigate the process of applying for deputyship of a loved one.

Year 2 student Mitchell Leon Siu Kin was one of the five students who received the Special Recognition Award for showing persistent effort, commitment and a passion for providing quality pro bono services. Mitchell was recognised for scaling up operations of the Recourse Initiative, a team of law students who work with faculty advisers and partner organisations to provide recourse to individuals who believe they have been wrongly convicted of crimes.

The Pro Bono Mentor Award 2019 was presented to Mr Ranjit Singh, a former Military Prosecutor in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Mr Singh has provided invaluable advice and mentorship to the Military Justice Project’s Defending Officer Guidebook project — an ambitious project to provide a comprehensive guide of military law and procedure for Defending Officers in the SAF.

Five financial grants were also presented to support deserving student pro bono projects — the Syariah Court Friends, PLAY Mentorship: Project Legal Awareness for Youth, NUS Law Criminal Justice Club, Enterprise Pro Bono and Students for Migrants.