SINGAPORE - Seven law students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) received awards on Wednesday (March 2) for pro bono - or voluntary - legal work during their time at the university.
Their work covered areas such as adult vulnerability, military justice and wrongful conviction of crimes and it was the first time that the NUS has given out such awards.
"Through pro bono work, the legal profession gives back to society, and this helps many of us rediscover the nobility of our profession," said Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah, who was the guest of honour at the event.
"The government is doing more to help those in our society with limited means to gain access to legal assistance and representation. However, the success of these efforts depends greatly on the legal fraternity and its active participation in pro bono work."
The Pro Bono Leadership Award was given to six students while one alumnus, Mr Ng Bin Hong, 28,won the Pro Bono Champion Award for his continued contribution to pro bono work after graduation.
His achievements include helping to establish several legal clinics, in which NUS law students help in cases raised to MPs during Meet-the-People sessions, and suggesting amendments to the Mental Capacity Act to protect the mentally incapacitated here from abuse.
In addition, four of the school's pro bono student projects also won new grants that will help them to continue operating. Called the NUS Law Class of 1992 Pro Bono award and the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono award, the grants will furnish deserving projects with $2,500 and $5,000 a year respectively.
One of of the winning projects, Innocence Project Singapore, seeks to help those in prison claiming wrongful conviction to seek recourse, and is supported by the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Singapore Prison Service.
Another, called the Military Justice Project, is working with the Ministry of Defence to train Defending Officers, as well as have NUS law students assist in providing legal services to servicemen facing charges in a General Court Martial.
Dean of NUS Law Professor Simon Chesterman said: "For many students and lawyers, pro bono work reminds us all that the rewards of being a lawyer are more than financial. The ability to help your community... can be what sustains you, what gets you up in the morning and sees you though the day."
Since 2013, it has been compulsory for all second year NUS law students to complete 20 hours of pro bono work before graduation. Between May 2015 to February 2016, students completed more than 10,000 verified hours of pro bono work.
It is also compulsory for each law student at Singapore Management University to do 20 hours of pro bono work.