Family lawyers bring empathy, objectivity in settling cases

We thank Mr Peter Ong Teck Sin for his thoughts in his letter (Limit role of lawyers in family justice system; Jan 20).

While it is not mandatory for parties to engage lawyers to represent them in divorce proceedings, they often do so because they recognise that divorce outcomes have far-reaching, long-lasting and deeply impacting consequences on both parties and the children involved.

Lawyers offer the best combination of empathy and objectivity necessary to make right choices.

Because of their experience and training, they are often able to heal the familial conflict by offering support and enabling parties to see the light in spite of the heat in a matrimonial dispute.

In his letter, Mr Ong appears to imply that the complexity of family proceedings is measured by the size of the matrimonial asset pool. This is not the case.

At the heart of most divorce proceedings is the issue of the best interests of the children and a spouse's concern over accommodation and financial security.

Compassionate family lawyers enable parties to part ways less acrimoniously and with less trauma for their children.

Mr Ong also theorises that time and effort spent by lawyers would be reduced in a "low bono" model.

The Law Society assures Mr Ong that standards of competence and ethics do not fluctuate depending on whether a legal matter is pro bono, low bono or full fee paying.

In family law practice, in particular, access to justice is important, and while legal aid is available, there are still clients who do not qualify for legal aid but at the same time are unable to afford a lawyer.

Family law practitioners often sacrifice their own family time by attending to their clients, even after office hours and on weekends.

Sometimes, the clients' issues are not legal ones, but the lawyers take the calls anyway.

Yet, these lawyers continue to remain passionate about practising family law. They seek to make a difference in their clients' lives by living out the calling of "lawyer-healers".

Shawn Toh

Director, Communications

The Law Society of Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2018, with the headline 'Family lawyers bring empathy, objectivity in settling cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe