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Associate Professors Lim Lei Theng ’92 and Tang Hang Wu ’95 speak to Adeline Ang ’96 about their volunteer work with the Legal Aid Bureau.

Lim Lei Theng ’92

At the Ministry of Law’s Appreciation Dinner on 19 October 2011, Associate Professors Lim Lei Theng ’92 and Tang Hang Wu ’95 were awarded the Legal Aid Bureau’s (LAB) Amicus Award for their services as Volunteer Assistant Directors of the Legal Aid Bureau.

Tang Hang Wu ’95Lei Theng’s work involves, inter alia, writing opinions for complicated cases, preparing affidavits, and attending court hearings; as well as some of the regular duties of the LAB’s legal officers, such as being on on-call for walk-in applicants at the LAB, and taking turns to do weekly video-link hearings. In this work, she is supported by students who are participating in Law School's Clinical Legal Education (CLE) Programme. Under her supervision, the students do the work that a junior associate in a law firm would, and earn academic credit for it.

She elaborates: “CLE is about teaching law through experiential learning in live cases. Ms Lim Hui Min, then the Second Deputy Director of the LAB, initiated discussions with me; and it was serendipitous. The clients that the LAB serves provide students with an avenue to further develop their legal skills, in an environment that would encourage them to pursue pro bono work when they graduate.”

Hang Wu’s work is more specialised, relating to property-related issues. To date, this has included matters on HDB flats, resulting trusts, co-ownership disputes, and even caveats by moneylenders. Says Hang Wu, “My academic background is useful, because I know the case law on property related issues quite well. I can usually give LAB a quick answer over the telephone or email. By being designated a Volunteer Assistant Director, I am able to appear in Court for LAB without a Practising Certificate – although I haven't had the opportunity to do so yet." 

He recalls a particularly gratifying case which he was involved in:

“(We were) helping a foreign wife who was disinherited by her late husband, and were able to persuade the husband's late family to reach an amicable settlement with the wife.”

Lei Theng also agrees that the work, though unpaid, is rich in other rewards. “I have found the work to be very fulfilling because we are helping people effect the changes in their lives that they want and are willing to work for.  The ones that have affected me the most as a mother, a lawyer and a teacher are the child custody applications.  We have helped a mother get what she wanted because she had worked hard to prove that she was a good mother who could provide the appropriate environment for her children. The maintenance issues are also an eye-opener.  Most of us in Law School lead privileged lives. It is sobering to work with people who need to count every cent that they earn and spend to make ends meet for themselves, their children, their elderly parents.”

Both believe that all Law School alumni – including non-practitioners – have a role to play with the work of LAB. Says Lei Theng: “LAB serves a segment of society that cannot afford legal assistance.  They need the law to help them claim what is due to them, protect them, extricate themselves from damaging relationships. LAB already has a large pool of lawyers who tirelessly work as Assigned Solicitors (and they would welcome more to come forward), but the good work that the LAB does requires more help.  The Volunteer Programme allows those of us who are legally qualified but not currently holding practicing certificates to help.”

Lei Theng and Hang Wu both feel that the work is a reward in itself. Says Hang Wu: “Most of us became lawyers so that we can help people. I believe that lawyers have a yearning for a greater sense of self purpose quite apart from amassing material wealth. LAB provides that opportunity to help people.” The Amicus Award was therefore a very pleasant surprise to them. Hang Wu continues: “I only found out (about receiving the award) the night before the Ministry of Law Appreciation Dinner.  Obviously, I am very honoured to receive it.”

Lei Theng feels the same way: “Honoured, privileged and appreciated.  Every day I walk into the LAB, I feel the same way.”  

The Ministry of Law conveys its appreciation to Lei Theng and Hang Wu:-

“Associate Professor Lim Lei Theng has supported the Bureau’s mission of providing quality legal aid by not only actively taking on cases and representing the legal aid applicants in court, but also by providing legal advice to legal aid applicants on a regular basis.

Associate Professor Tang Hang Wu, by generously providing his valuable expertise in Trust and Estate law to the Bureau, has enabled the Bureau to deal with several difficult cases in these areas of the law. He has also given a talk to the staff of the Bureau on the latest developments in Trust and Estate Law.

The Bureau is very appreciative to both Assoc Prof Lim and Assoc Prof Tang for generously volunteering their time and skills to support the work of the Bureau. These appreciation awards are the public testaments to their kindness and generosity.”

 

 

 

“LAB already has a large pool of lawyers who tirelessly work as Assigned Solicitors (and they would welcome more to come forward), but the good work that the LAB does requires more help. 

The Volunteer Programme allows those of us who are legally qualified but not currently holding practicing certificates to help”