Becoming a better person and lawyer

Ms Kang says it is good to help give those in need a chance to turn over a new leaf.
Ms Kang says it is good to help give those in need a chance to turn over a new leaf.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

For Ms Kang Zhi Ni, law was not her first choice of study. She wanted to do chemistry.

"Somehow, the doors were closed and in the end I did law," said the National University of Singapore graduate, who was called to the Bar in 2012. "(But) with law, I'm able to really do something that has a tangible impact on society and helps people on the street."

Ms Kang, 27, a senior associate at law firm Yusarn Audrey, specialises in intellectual property and corporate law. She started volunteering at the Law Society and at legal clinics in 2013, but took on Criminal Legal Aid Scheme cases only from April last year.

"I wanted to help people who do not have easy access to legal representation, and learn about the criminal litigation process," she said.

She has taken on two such cases so far - involving shop theft and unlicensed moneylending harassment - and hopes to take on more.

Her first case involved a man who had gone to prison many times for various offences, she said.

EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE

Volunteering opened my eyes so I could see the faces of people who are truly in need.

MS KANG ZHI NI, on what she has gained from her pro bono work

He had "a really unfortunate background" - both his parents had criminal records, his wife was also facing a charge linked to theft and his son had learning disabilities. 

She submitted a mitigation plea that led  the district judge to mete out a more lenient sentence.

"My client was very grateful for that. Seeing a positive outcome for them - which went beyond a reduction in jail term and gave them a chance to turn over a new leaf - was very rewarding," she said.

She said she would encourage other young lawyers to volunteer despite their busy schedule.

"Where there's a will, there's a way. It's all about time management," she said. "Volunteering opened my eyes so I could see the faces of people who are truly in need. It humbles me and makes me a better person and, of course, a better lawyer."

Lim Yi Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Becoming a better person and lawyer'. Print Edition | Subscribe