27 Mar 2008 Posted in Speeches
Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee delivered the welcome address at the launch of the Law Society’s Pro Bono Services Office at the Subordinate Courts on 10 Sept 2007. He is accompanied by Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, SC, President of Law Society and Mr Jimmy Yim, SC, from Drew & Napier.
Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, President of the Law Society
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to join you at today’s official opening of the Pro Bono Services Office.
The Need for Pro Bono Services
The opening of this Office clearly demonstrates the commitment of the Law Society of Singapore to its mission of serving the community by facilitating access to justice. No one in Singapore should be bereft of someone to turn to if they should need legal advice or help, including those who cannot afford to pay for it. Hence, I am very happy to note that even as Singapore’s legal profession strives to take advantage of the fast growing economic opportunities, both domestically and internationally, it does not forget its social responsibility to the man-in-the-street, especially the less fortunate amongst us.
The setting up of this Pro Bono Services Office is one of the concrete steps taken by the Law Society to encourage lawyers to contribute 25 hours of pro bono work a year. I understand that this Office will not only administer the Law Society’s pro bono programs, namely, Project Law Help and the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, it will also work closely with the Legal Aid Bureau on its civil legal aid scheme and with other partners to develop new pro bono schemes. This will provide many more avenues for lawyers to volunteer their time to help needy Singaporeans. This is commendable.
The Community Legal Clinics
This evening, we are launching a brand new and important pro bono initiative undertaken by MinLaw and the Law Society, supported by the Singapore Academy of Law and the North-West and South-East Community Development Councils (CDCs) which will see the setting up of two pilot Community Legal Clinics to provide basic legal advice and information to needy Singaporeans and permanent residents. These Clinics will complement existing avenues available to those in need of legal advice. I note that a number of law firms have already committed to providing the lawyers needed to continuously man the clinics. I want to thank these Law Firms for showing leadership in this area. This clearly demonstrates the legal fraternity’s support for the pro bono cause.
The Benefits of Pro Bono Work
This is not to say that our lawyers have not already been giving of their hearts and time to those in need. Over many years now, many lawyers from both large and small firms have been rendering voluntary service quietly behind the scenes in various ways. Many are already volunteers at legal clinics run by groups such as the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers, Jamiyah, the Catholic Lawyers Guild and those offered by Family Service Centres. Some lawyers are involved in grassroots work; others as members in important Committees and Councils set up by the Ministries; and yet others pursue their passions for sports by serving in National Sports Associations. In these and other ways, lawyers do their part in making Singapore a “happening” place.
The inculcating of a spirit of voluntarism as lawyers chip in to serve on the many platforms created by the Law Society will help foster a stronger esprit-de-corp in the profession. As an honorable profession, we should continue to strive to instill a sense of pride and purpose in our lawyers, especially the younger ones. Helping them channel their expressions of responsibility through platforms like these Community Legal Clinics will go some way to bolster this sense of pride and purpose.
The opening of the Pro Bono Services Office is an important milestone for the Law Society. I thank everyone who has worked hard to bring the Office and its first initiative - the Community Legal Clinics - to fruition. I am confident that the Pro Bono Services Office will grow from strength to strength, and I am sure that its efforts will be felt by the legal profession and the community as a whole in the weeks and months, and years to come.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012