More pro bono legal services for the needy

There will be more community legal clinics (CLCs) in future to help residents who need legal services, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said yesterday.

She was speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the People's Association (PA) and the Law Society Pro Bono Services to bring all CLCs at community clubs (CCs) and residents' committee (RC) centres under a common framework.

This will help better manage the case load across the clinics and improve administrative efficiency.

The MOU will also provide insurance coverage for pro bono lawyers, as well as enable greater participation among law students from the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Social Sciences.

Volunteers at the CLCs will be given training opportunities.

The network aims to "provide access to justice for the needy in the community", Ms Indranee said.

"It is heartening to know that currently, there are 15 clinics on board this network," she said.

"More CCs will be setting up new clinics in areas where there is demand for such services, based on feedback from residents," she added.

Last year, some 2,000 residents received help from a total of 25 legal clinics, including the 15 CLCs, administered by the Law Society Pro Bono Services (LSPBS), said its chairman and senior counsel Gregory Vijayendran.

The LSPBS has around 500 active volunteer lawyers at the 25 clinics.

"The sessions at the 15 CLCs are held on average once a month. But under the MOU, those needing urgent support can be channelled to other clinics in the vicinity," said Mr Vijayendran.

He noted that the demand for community legal services has increased.

"There are manifold issues popping up, such as matrimonial and family problems, employment claims, probate/estate issues and protection against harassment," he said.

PA's chief executive director Desmond Tan said the PA will work with the Law Society to identify common case types and scale up clinics where there is demand.

Ms Hany Soh Hui Bin, vice-chairman of the Bukit Panjang Zone 2 RC and a director of MSC Law Corp, said that about 80 per cent of the residents who go to her legal clinic are senior citizens.

She added that while volunteer lawyers see about eight to 10 residents in a month, the number of inquiries has been going up consistently.

"We are looking into running the legal clinic on a fortnightly basis in the near future," said Ms Soh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'More pro bono legal services for the needy'. Print Edition | Subscribe