Top 5 models for charity, pro bono work in legal sector

Ms Susan Leong and her husband Adrian Peh of Adsan Law. Adsan Law said it did more pro bono work this year than in the past year. ST PHOTO: SUSAN LEONG

SINGAPORE - This year's best five law firms listed for charity and pro bono work in the Singapore's Best Law Firms 2022 survey has a newcomer which is also the smallest of the five.

Ranked with heavyweights like Rajah & Tann and Allen & Gledhill is Eng & Co, a three-year-old corporate and commercial law firm headed by veteran Rachel Eng, who has almost 30 years' experience as a corporate lawyer. She is also a member of the CPF board of directors, and was named in Forbes' Asia's Power Businesswomen 2020 list.

Among the work Eng & Co does on a pro bono or reduced fee basis is to help clients set up charities, said Ms Eng. "We also support a non-profit organisation that is active in South-east Asia with their legal needs. Among our partners, we serve the community actively in various pro bono organisations and activities," she said.

"Covid-19 has impacted our lives greatly, and severely affected the ability of charities to raise funds. As a firm, we have contributed towards efforts by the community to raise funds to provide food for front-line health workers. We feel we have both directly and indirectly contributed to the charity ecosystem."

She noted a trend of corporate entities increasingly pursuing goals related to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) through the use of charity structures. ESG investors incorporate concerns and values such as environmental impacts when choosing investments instead of profitability only.

Ms Rachel Eng has almost 30 years' experience as a corporate lawyer. PHOTO: RACHEL ENG

Topping the charity/pro bono list in the survey was Adsan Law, which retained its pole position from last year.

Following Rajah & Tann in second place was Quahe Woo & Palmer in third, and Allen & Gledhill in fifth. These four were also in the top five for this category in the inaugural survey last year.

A spokesman for Rajah & Tann said the firm had built a strong partnership of pro bono work with various organisations over the years, including the Law Society, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and Dementia Singapore.

It is the first law firm to set up a charity foundation in Singapore, the Rajah & Tann Foundation, which channels donations to charities in a focused and organised manner, she said.

"We are deeply humbled to be listed among top law firms. This recognition serves as a pat on the back for our lawyers and staff, who regularly provide hands-on contribution to needy communities such as underprivileged children, the elderly, and disadvantaged groups and individuals. As we continue lending our hand to the less fortunate, we hope to leverage our presence in the region and spread our reach to the rest of Asia," she added.

Speaking for Allen & Gledhill, Mr Chan Hian Young, the co-head of the firm's pro bono programme, said its lawyers across Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam have given their time to serve their respective communities since the pro bono programme was set up in 2008.

Mr Chan Hian Young is the co-head of Allen & Gledhill's pro-bono programme. PHOTO: ALLEN & GLEDHILL

"In 2020 alone, our lawyers were engaged in over 5,000 hours of pro bono work for close to 50 different organisations and 36 individuals," said Mr Chan.

Adsan Law said it did more pro bono work this year than in the past year. "We conducted more pro bono talks for community organisations and charities as well as for clients and associates and provided pro bono legal services to other non-profit organisations," said Ms Susan Leong, Adsan Law's chief executive officer.

The firm's chairman, Mr Adrian Peh, is a Justice of the Peace and sits on several public service boards such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

"This recognition is humbling and a constant reminder that even as the world propels itself into the digital age, people and human insight remain the heart of all that we do as a law corporation," said Ms Leong.

"We are grateful to our staff, clients, charity partners and associates for their support and belief in us."

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