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The Singapore Law Gazette

President’s Message

This welcome speech was delivered by the President at Jus Makan, Law Society Pro Bono Services’ fund-raising gala dinner on 29 March 2019.

Guest of Honour, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, Edwin Tong SC,

Distinguished Members of the Judiciary, Council Members of the Law Society, Board Members of LSPB, Members of the Legal Profession,

Volunteers, Supporters, Donors, Well-Wishers and Friends of the LS Pro Bono Services,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and welcome to Just Makan, our law awareness cum fund-raising signature event of the year organised by the Law Society Pro Bono Services! I trust that by the time the evening ends, you will be filled to the full with good things. Food, drinks and most important, the company of friends (new and old). Symbolically, many us have been filled to the full, fulfilled, with good things because of our individual pro bono journey catalysed, cheered on and championed by the LSPB. I will devote a little time and talk in a bit to these three thoughts of catalysing, cheering and championing.

Of first priority, however, is a word of appreciation that goes out to our Guest-of-Honour, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health (SMS), and Senior Counsel, Mr Edwin Tong. He is one of our own, always will be and has frequently taken time out to be with the Bar (not necessarily at the Bar) to understand in depth, listen with heart and mind and earnestly moot constructive proposals for the legal profession. His passion for pro bono is also indelible. As a snapshot, let me quote from two prior speeches given by SMS:

At the launch of Law Awareness Weeks at CDC on 18 September last year, SMS spoke of the partnership between the 5 CDCs and LSPB in the following terms:

“The partnership that has been cultivated and developed over the years, seeks precisely to enhance access to justice, particularly to the less privileged members of our community.

  1. I believe, as I think all of us as volunteers here believe, that one of the measures of how inclusive we are as a society is how accessible our justice system is.
  2. Our principle, as a society, must be not to let someone suffer a wrong, or suffer a consequence, only because he or she is not able to afford legal services. And I think that is why we are all here today.
  3. So I thank you very much for keeping the ethos alive and for driving this purpose in our community”

And more recently, during the Parliamentary Response Speech at the Committee of Supply Debate 2019 earlier this month on 4 March:

“ (b) On criminal legal aid, the number of accused persons assisted per year has risen after the Government introduced direct funding in 2015. CLAS assisted almost 1,600 cases in 2018, almost 4 times the number of cases assisted pre-2015 before the Government funding.

(c) We will continue to review these schemes to ensure that persons of limited means, the right target clientele for these schemes, will remain assisted and will have access to justice.”

Thank you for showcasing the work of LSPB and CLAS in these speeches, SMS. These speech excerpts reveal your passion for pro bono and commitment to access to justice.

To catalyse. To cheerlead. To champion. This is the LSPB story.

LSPB catalyses.

Tanguy (whose secret life is concurrently running an in-house video production team called Shoestring Productions) and his team have produced a video to be screened later tonight. It is a vignette entitled “60 seconds on pro bono”. You will see and hear how LSPB catalyses access to justice in Singapore through its four main pillars. I shall leave you to imbibe that catalysis later while you imbibe your drinks.

LSPB cheerleads.

Doing good can be wearying. There are times that reservoirs of altruistic enthusiasm and energy can run dry. In such moments, we cannot discern the meaning of the moment and need cheerleaders – sometimes a community of the same.

The cheerleading/coaching leadership style has been described by as a “people-oriented leadership style” and “an indirect approach, motivating and encouraging the team toward success. They have magnetic personalities and boatloads of charisma.” Going beyond a personality style, however, there are times when you need a leader who can cheer you up and cheer you on. That is cheerleading in a nutshell.

I have been blessed by fellow leaders of cheer who have come on board on the Board to serve with dedication and distinction: Deputy Chair, Kelvin Wong, Treasurer Dinesh Dhillon, Board Members, Mrs Arfat Selvam, Thio Shen Yi SC, N Sreenivasan SC, Wendell Wong, Derek Kang, Tan Cheow Hung and Cyril Chua last year. This year, we welcome Law Soc’s nominees, Adrian Tan and Paul Seah as inductees to the Board. The Board serves complementarily with the LSPB Management team operationally led by Tanguy Lim. Tanguy is an extraordinary cheerleader in his own right. His fervent passion and evangelistic zeal for pro bono causes is truly inspiring. I am heartened to see LSPBS grow from strength to strength year after year. This is due, in no small part, to Tanguy cheering his team up and on despite challenges and setbacks at times.

As a pro bono community gathered here for Just Makan, we can lead the cheers. We can all be rich role models to cheer on the younger and future generations. And so tonight, in that sense, we will wear our heart on our sleeve to inspire others. The pro bono culture, the extraordinary volunteering spirit and passion for doing good is what we seek to multiply exponentially across our community. Especially to the many who have not yet taken the first step in their pro bono journey. I started years ago on that journey as a junior lawyer, encouraged by my seniors, as a legal clinic volunteer at Raffles City. I saw how lives were touched by that small amount of consultation time to provide the legal compass for their bread and butter legal problems. Their lives were never the same again. Neither was mine.

Pro bono work lies at the heart of the legal profession. It is an integral part of the working lives of many lawyers. Legal advice or representation, provided free of charge by legal professionals, represents an exceptionally important societal contribution. But pro bono can only be free for those in our society who need it most because of the kind contributions of our donors and the sacrificial commitment of our volunteers. And so, despite donor fatigue, we cheer each other on to give generously to LSPB to enable LSPB to give generously to the community. On behalf of the Board of LSPB, I thank you for your rich contributions to date and look forward to your enthusiastic participation in the live auction later tonight.

Finally, LSPB champions. We champion causes such as access to justice. We do so whether it makes us popular or not with either the public or the profession. It is principled support. To provide legal aid to the indigent. The un-lawyered individual and the under lawyered community.

In this past year, LSPB championed assistance to close to 12,000 persons via legal awareness, legal advice, legal assistance and legal advocacy through multifarious initiatives under our main programmes. And so we championed:

  • 150 law awareness talks for our charities, community organisations and the man on the street, with 8,000 touchpoints in our community;
  • assisting 2,000 needy fellow Singaporeans in our society through our community legal clinics; and
  • representing 1,600 accused under CLAS.

In our Just Makan magazine, thoughtfully and carefully collated by the LSPB team, we relate many inspiring anecdotes by volunteers providing, and beneficiaries receiving, pro bono services. We also narrate other initiatives championed such as education for our children via Project Schools and assistance to foreign spouses via Project LEAF. Do keep the keepsake and share the sharing in the magazine with others.

Tonight, we will also honour community champions who have given unselfishly of their time and talent. By converging like this to recognise and appreciate those who do good well, we intentionally showcase exemplars who are among the finest pro bono ambassadors and advocates of the Bar. Many of the unsung heroes and heroines of the legal profession.

Our performing champions tonight include many people who have contributed their time and energy towards our programme. The two bands who are performing tonight, “Chain Reaction” and “Guilty as Charged”, comprise multi-talented lawyers who will sing and play for their supper. They have taken time out from their busy schedules to entertain us while you Just Makan. Together with Paul Foster, our auctioneer for tonight, they offer their services pro bono to us. For your gratuitous service, we are grateful, Paul, Chain Reaction and Guilty as Charged.

I would like to record my heartfelt appreciation to a special group of champions who made tonight possible. My deepest gratitude goes out to Thio Shen Yi SC, Chairperson of the Organising Committee and LSPB’s Fundraising Committee and his team. Shen, you have outdone yourself. You have been the driving force behind tonight’s dinner. Without Shen’s ideas and inspiration, and the enthusiasm and dedication of his team, Just Makan would not have received its just desserts!

Last but not least, take a long, hard look around you. At every table, every seat, sits someone who has sacrificially given of their time, treasure or talent to the pro bono landscape in Singapore. In truth, each one of you attending are also the catalysts, the cheerleaders and the champions I spoke about. All of you are the true champions. Without you, LSPB could not have taken the steps we did to champion the cause behind access to justice for the marginalised and vulnerable in our community And so we celebrate every single one of you tonight. Thank you for bravely believing in, generously giving to and loudly living out, the LSPB dream. Because of you, one more needy person will go aided or assisted in seeking justice and mercy in Singapore.

Partner, Dispute Resolution
Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP
Immediate Past President
The Law Society of Singapore