Dear Law Society members,
This month, to give you a high level snapshot of our Law Society Pro Bono’s (LSPB) services in this past year in fulfilling Law Society’s access to justice mission, I shall share my message for the LSPB Annual Report:
“The splash of colours on the cover of the annual report of the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS) reflects the colours of grace. Those colours cover and characterise the work of LSPBS this past year. Grace breaks down barriers as we apply our wordcraft. Every lawyer uses words but not every lawyer has speech seasoned with grace. Grace brings hope and healing to their listeners. They are a hallmark of justice with compassion. We, as a pro bono community of LSPBS staff and volunteer lawyers, brought the power of grace into situations and settings this last year.
Who were the listeners to these words of grace? One group this year was the marginalised migrants. Through a migrant worker coalition linking heads, hands and hearts of migrant worker organisations and social service agencies on an LSPBS platform, we strengthened the serve to this oft-forgotten group. The sharing of best practices, issues on the ground and practical answers during our quarterly meetings broke solo and silo mindsets. It made the relevant NGOs a force for good and collectively, a force to be reckoned with. LSPBS is committed to moderate and calibrate views for moderate and calibrated advocacy to the policymakers of the plight of the foreigner needing access to justice. We are particularly pleased to build this platform so that the marginalised migrants have access to justice whether due to unpaid salaries, debt bondage, trafficking or even a relatively recent observed phenomena on the ground of illegal moneylending to migrant workers.
Another important group who need grace are couples undergoing marriage breakdown. Our statistics show that the topmost enquiries at our legal clinics are on family law. Predictably, even with our enhanced scale of clinic counselling courtesy of our MOU signed this year with People’s Association (PA), we will continue to see an acute need for familial legal support.
The Family Justice Support Scheme (FJSS) has been designed precisely with that outreach in mind: individuals with modest means failing the Legal Aid Bureau means test criteria marginally. For this group, as the consensus from the profession (especially the Family Bar) shows, there is a need to support the public through low bono schemes. Likewise, foreign spouses or brides with children in Singapore but who technically do not qualify for legal aid
because of a lack of citizenry or permanent residence in Singapore cannot be left helpless and hopeless. LSPBS has laid the groundwork in conceptualizing a clearing house to ensure proper matching for the individual and the pro bono/low bono lawyer. We have submitted a proposal to the Government for support to pilot the FJSS.
The salient facts and figures of the year under review is in CEO Tanguy Lim’s report and elaborated on the pages of the annual report available at the Law Society website. I shall not repeat them. These will also touch on Enhanced CLAS, our jewel in the crown, and the MOU signing with PA that turboboosts our heartland outreach in the CDCs to deliver practical legal awareness and legal aid on bread and butter issues faced by residents such as criminal law, family law, estate matters, Muslim Law and elder law to name some areas.
I wish to record my sincere, heartfelt appreciation to Deputy Chairman Kelvin Wong for his unwavering dedication and loyalty to this cause through the “thick and thin” situations we navigated. Kudos also to our diverse fellow Board Members who have stayed engaged and brought various viewpoints to the table to enrich discussion and decision making. I am also deeply grateful to our reliable and committed CEO Tanguy who together with his merry men and women on staff lift me up when I see their unflagging enthusiasm. They have uplifted many indigents. Last but not least, every single volunteer, donor and partner – we salute you. It is the sacrifice of time, treasure or talent from each of you to help the least, last and lost in law that catalyzed the growth and stability of this charity.
The future looks bright for our access to justice arm. The region continues to look to us for thought leadership through our participation in regional conferences. We have an invaluable global sharing opportunity later this year when we serve as hosts for the PILnet forum.
May the charity’s influence continue to grow deeper and go wider both in Singapore and elsewhere!”
For facts, figures, detailed information and reports, please see www.lawsociety.org.sg > About Us > Annual Reports > Annual Report 2019.