New law centre for pro bono efforts

01 November 2017 | EducationCommunity
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Ms Indranee (center) and Presiding Judge of the State Courts Justice See Kee Oon (2nd from right) with Year 4 NUS Law students and participants of the pilot State Courts – NUS Clerkship Programme (from left) Lim Wei Yang, Marcus and Shaun Lim

Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance Indranee Rajah launched the Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education at NUS Law on 31 October.

The Centre brings together the work of the NUS Pro Bono Office and the Faculty’s clinical legal education programmes to develop best practices and prepare NUS Law students for real-world practice by exposing them to the challenges of delivering quality legal service while serving the disadvantaged in the community.

“This new Centre will widen and deepen the opportunities for our students to see the law in action, making them better lawyers and potentially better people. Such experiences will help improve our graduates in the practice of law but also teach them, we hope, that the value of a lawyer is best measured in people helped rather than hours billed,” said Dean of NUS Law Professor Simon Chesterman.

Ms Indranee echoed similar sentiments in her speech during the launch. “Education for young lawyers is broader than teaching the law, jurisprudence and concepts of justice and rights. It also includes cultivating practical knowledge and skills, and understanding the potential impact of our work on the lives of our clients.”

Addressing the students, she added, “Your abilities, skills and energy help people facing legal issues understand their rights and obligations, and where they can go for legal help. You therefore contribute invaluably in facilitating access to justice.”

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Prof Chesterman said that the Centre will see students work with real people, real problems and real consequences

The Centre will develop, manage and oversee pro bono programmes at the Faculty, including the Mandatory Pro Bono Programme for Law Students, as well as support the myriad of student-led pro bono activities of the NUS Pro Bono Group and the Criminal Justice Club.

Education for young lawyers is broader than teaching the law, jurisprudence and concepts of justice and rights. It also includes cultivating practical knowledge and skills, and understanding the potential impact of our work on the lives of our clients.

It will also expand its clinical legal education programmes, for which students are graded and given credit. An example of this is the 11-week State Courts – NUS Clerkship Programme introduced in August 2017, which offers students the rare opportunity to hone their legal advocacy, drafting and research skills through observing cases in real-life courtroom settings, reflecting on and reviewing existing court processes, and weekly discussions and interaction with top State Court judges.

Year 4 NUS Law student Marcus Hoh, who participated in the pilot programme, said the module gave him an invaluable opportunity to understand things from the judge’s perspective as well as the different measures available in the State Courts. “I think it ties in very nicely with the opening of the pro bono centre, which is not just about helping unrepresented accused persons but also about enhancing access to justice by lay persons like us.”

The Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education will be helmed by NUS Law Associate Professor Lim Lei Theng and Associate Professor Ruby Lee.

“We are privileged to be in a law school that believes not only in training our students to be able to compete in the marketplace of the world as lawyers, but also believes in keeping our students grounded in the community that they have grown up in, live in, belong to, and rub shoulders with every day,” added Assoc Prof Lim.

See press release and media coverage.