The Straits Times
Published on Sep 11, 2012

Law schools debate on pro bono work


Should pro bono work be made compulsory for all lawyers?

A team of three representing the National University of Singapore (NUS) argued for it, saying lawyers have an "intrinsic responsibility" to provide free legal aid.They took on another trio representing Singapore Management University (SMU), in a debate yesterday organised by the Law Society as part of its inaugural Pro Bono Week.

The SMU team opposed the motion to mandate pro bono work, arguing that a "compulsory culture of volunteerism" was an oxymoron. The NUS team shot down their suggestion that compulsion would lead to shoddy work, arguing that slipshod results also occur under non-pro bono circumstances.

The SMU team argued that society - rather than lawyers alone - ought to be responsible for those who cannot afford lawyers. They called for a public defenders' office and suggested that those who did not want to do pro bono work could contribute to a fund to pay those willing to do so, albeit at a less-than-market rate.