Free, and freely from the heart...
I AGREE with Mr Daniel Chia that pro bono work should come from the heart ("Pro bono work should come from the heart"; last Monday) and that it is time for more to do pro bono work ("Time for more to do pro bono work"; last Tuesday).
I used to volunteer for the Law Society of Singapore's Pro Bono Services Office, providing assistance in the free legal clinics every Monday and Wednesday in the Northwest Community Development Council. There were about 16 to 17 cases at each session, and most of them were matrimonial and civil cases.
The clients come from low-income families; they earned below $2,000 per month and could not afford a lawyer. Though each client was given only 20 minutes with the pro bono lawyer, most of the clients were satisfied by the sessions.
I re-volunteered in early 2010 and was assigned to help with the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, which involved interviews with walk-in clients and visits to the Changi Women's Prison and the Institute of Mental Health.
After the interviews, I wrote reports to assess whether the applicants that we interviewed deserved free legal aid. I feel a sense of satisfaction and achievement whenever a client is granted free legal aid.
Once, I accompanied a lawyer to the Changi Women's Prison to assist him with a Mandarin-speaking woman on drug-trafficking charges. Eventually, the charges were dropped and reduced to a lesser one. The eyes of the woman teared upon hearing the new charges.
Li Dan Yue (Ms)