Passionate, self-motivated, innovative and altruistic: If this group of Law students represent the future of the legal profession in Singapore, then the future looks very good indeed. Ang Jian Kai ’13 and Don Loo ’13 of the NUS Pro Bono Group show us how the Group is planting the seeds of a passion for pro bono work in our Law students
Anthony Wong '12
Founded in 2007 on the initiative of Law students, the NUS Pro Bono Group is a student-run organisation dedicated to the promotion of pro bono work among NUS Law students.
We strongly believe that volunteer legal service brings benefits to both the community and the volunteer. We seek to spread this message to our peers by spreading word of the pro bono movement in Singapore, and to involve them in pro bono work.
Under the guidance of our Faculty Advisor, Assistant Professor Helena Whalen-Bridge, the NUS Pro Bono Group has grown in strength from about 50 students at its inception in 2007 to over 170 students participating in our activities today.
The NUS Pro Bono Group works with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), the Law Society, the Judiciary and government-linked organisations on various projects that aim to advance the law in Singapore in a variety of ways. In this way, we can create opportunities for Law students to help people with their legal needs, while always observing the prohibition against law students giving legal advice.
Our projects consist of:
1. Research projects where volunteers research on points of law, critique the status of the law in Singapore, and if possible, suggest appropriate reforms to the law.
2. Awareness campaigns where student volunteers educate members of the public on various points of law. For example, our volunteers assist students in the Ministry of Education’s Moot Parliament Programme. This programme aims to raise political awareness and instil interest in active citizenry in Upper Secondary pupils by exposing them to the process of parliamentary legislation. We serve as the students’ mentors, as they prepare bills for the programme’s mock Parliamentary debate.
3. Legal clinics where our volunteers observe the lawyer-applicant interaction and learn about the everyday problems which people face, while assisting lawyers with the general administration of the legal clinic. Volunteers sometimes have the opportunity to draft simple letters and other documents, and may also be invited by the lawyer to do work for the file. The Legal Clinics we assist in are the Community Legal Clinics held by the Law Society’s Pro Bono Services Office, as well as the Clinics conducted by Singapore Association of Women Lawyers and Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations.
4. Hands-on projects where our volunteers aid laypersons in administrative procedures or general enquiries. For example, under the University Court Friends Scheme at the Subordinate Courts, our volunteers assist applicants at the Small Claims Tribunal in the procedural aspects of lodging their claims. Some of our volunteers are also trained to be co-mediators in real-life cases at the Small Claims Tribunal, under the watchful eye of experienced mediator Associate Professor Lim Lei Theng ’92. We also help to train secondary school students in aspects of peer mediation under the Subordinate Courts’ and Ministry of Education’s Peacemakers scheme.
Featured Project: RELAC
RELAC is the Pro Bono Group’s very own homegrown project. The project’s name itself conveys the idea of something laid-back, idyllic … not something you commonly find in Law School!
RELAC stands for: Raising Extra Legal Awareness among Children. Through the ‘relaxed’ medium of self-scripted skits, discussion groups, and other child/youth-friendly approaches, we give youths basic legal knowledge on issues, which they typically wrestle with, such as gang involvement and substance abuse.
RELAC volunteer Chan Yi Cheng ’13 believes that the program has had a meaningful impact on the students with whom he has interacted. He helped students to understand the gravity of the mistakes they might be tempted to make, by sharing his own personal experiences when he was in the Army. He says, “As the sessions went by, the students participated actively in discussions, clearing their doubts and taking away various learning points from each session. I look forward to returning to the school as each session ends, and hope our efforts will make a difference in their lives.”
We hope that by encouraging Law students to participate in pro bono activities during their time in Law School, more Law students will be inspired to contribute their legal skills to those in need, even after they have graduated and entered the legal profession. We are working hard to get more students involved in this cause, spreading the pro bono spirit throughout our legal fraternity.
If you are a practicing lawyer, and require assistance with research on your pro bono cases, please email us and we will be more than happy to help!
And of course, any contributions towards offsetting the expenses for our activities would be more than welcome!
To get in touch with the NUS Pro Bono Group, please go to: