We run programmes to (a) serve the community (b) support our volunteers and (c) assist or collaborate on pro bono initiatives with other agencies.
Services for the Community
Currently we run 3 categories of programmes to serve the community: (1) Programmes for individuals, (2) Programmes for community serving organizations and (3) Programmes for the community at large.
Programmes for individuals
Programmes for individuals consist of the Community Legal Clinic Scheme, the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and the Ad Hoc Pro Bono Referral Scheme.
The Community Legal Clinic offers free basic legal advice to Singaporeans/ Permanent Residents who are facing a legal issue on personal matters and do not have access to legal advice or representation.
The Criminal Legal Aid Scheme offers legal representation for accused persons regardless of nationality, who claim trial for certain criminal offences and who do not have the means to pay for a lawyer.
The Ad Hoc Pro Bono Referral Scheme offers legal representation for persons with exceptional circumstances who do not meet the criteria for existing legal aid schemes but nonetheless are in urgent need.
Needy applicants are also offered alternate legal clinic options through our partnership with the Subordinate Courts to provide specialised Civil Legal Clinics, Criminal Legal Clinics and Family Legal Clinics at the Subordinate Courts
Programmes for community serving organizations
Providing legal assistance to charities and voluntary welfare organizations is a top-down approach to pro bono work in the community.
Recognizing that community serving organizations are often run on limited resources and are unable to afford legal consultation and necessary representation, we support 3 legal assistance schemes for community serving organizations: the Community Organization Clinic, Project Law Help and the Joint International Pro Bono Committee. The Community Organization Clinic offers free basic legal advice on operational issues for charities, voluntary welfare organizations, non-profit organizations and social enterprises in Singapore that have an objective to meet community concerns or needs. In collaboration with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (ICPAS) and the Singapore Human Resource Institute (SHRI), the advice is being extended to cover accounting and human resource courtesy of volunteers from both of these institutions.
Project Law Help assists charities, voluntary welfare organizations, non-profit organizations and social enterprises doing community work in Singapore by matching eligible organizations with a volunteer law practice that will provide pro bono non-litigation corporate legal assistance. Legal assistance rendered under Project Law Help is more in depth than that under the Community Organization Legal Clinic.
The Joint International Pro Bono Committee assists non-profit organisations based in Singapore but doing community work overseas with pro bono non-litigation corporate legal assistance.
The Project Law Help initiative has recently developed a legal information portal for charities, non-profit organizations, social enterprises and voluntary welfare organizations. The portal scheduled to be launched in 2012, will provide first level information on the various laws and compliance requirements for running a charity or a non-profit organization and complements the Community Organization Legal Clinics in providing legal information and support to the non-profit sector.
Programmes for the community at large
At the community at large level, we support Law Awareness, a public education initiative to raise public awareness of the law via public education seminars, exhibitions and through the publication of educational information.
Biannually, the Law Society’s Law Awareness Committee launches a new public education initiative. For e.g. in 2011, Law Awareness launched the “Law Cares”, a project which aims to raise awareness of eldercare related legal matters as well as on legal matters that concern death. Concurrently, “Law Cares” seeks to establish a platform to collate research on the common types of legal issues that the elderly face and connect volunteer lawyers and law students with voluntary welfare organizations that provide elderly care in the interest of fostering pro bono collaboration.
Services for volunteers
We have a number of programmes to support our volunteers including:
(a) The Ad Hoc Pro Bono Assessment Scheme (AHPBS) which assists practitioners and firms who wish to undertake pro bono work for needy persons on an ad hoc basis by screening and preparing a suitability report on the potential recipient of the pro bono assistance.
(b) The Volunteer Initiative Support Scheme which assists practitioners undertaking their own pro bono initiatives with administrative support and volunteer coordination and mobilization.
(c) Social Service Agency referral service which helps to alleviate the burden often encountered by practitioners in searching for relevant assistance schemes to help dysfunctional pro bono clients. In particular, we provide guidance on relevant social serve agencies/schemes and assists in making referrals to those agencies/schemes.
Services to assist or collaborate on pro bono initiatives with other agencies.
We strive for synergy and an integrated approach in delivering access to justice initiatives.
We have developed systems and procedures for the running of pro bono programmes. Systems for program administration, volunteer mobilization and volunteer support materials are a valuable resource for other agencies seeking to start or develop their pro bono programmes. We give ready access to our resources to other agencies administering pro bono programmes. We assist agencies with volunteer recruitment by publicizing pro bono opportunities with these agencies to our pool of volunteers and organise regular inter agency networking sessions to share on new developments and needs within the pro bono landscape.
An example of synergy at work in the legal community was the establishment of the Joint International Pro Bono Committee. The Joint International Pro Bono Committee is an initiative of a group of international and Singapore law practices with the support of the Law Society of Singapore. The purpose of the committee is to match interested Singapore and international law practices with cross-border pro bono opportunities involving economic and social development in emerging markets. Law students from the National University of Singapore Pro Bono Group and the Singapore Management University Pro Bono Club support the Committee’s work by providing research and paralegal support.
At the judicial level, we act as a coordinating agency for the Small Claims Tribunal Volunteer Referee Scheme which trains and gazettes volunteer lawyers as volunteer referees on an annual basis. We also support the Supreme Court's Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (“LASCO”) with volunteer administration and specialised civil, criminal and family legal clinics at the Subordinate Courts.
We have collaborated or are in collaboration with a number of other agencies including the Consumers Association of Singapore, Ministry of Community Youth and Sports, National Council of Social Service, National Crime Prevention Council, the Social Enterprise Development Centre, Singapore Sports Council, Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations and The Kind Exchange.