Pro Bono SG (formerly known as Law Society Pro Bono Services) is a Singapore registered charity and Institution of a Public Character, operating as a company limited by guarantee. Initially established as a department within The Law Society of Singapore, it has since been incorporated to scale up its legal initiatives and programs. Over the years, Pro Bono SG has provided legal awareness, guidance, and representation to more than 132,000 people. In the fiscal year 2021-2022, Pro Bono SG helped over 17,000 individuals and community organizations with the support of one thousand registered volunteers from various industries and specialities.
Pro Bono SG collaborates closely with community partners to improve its services. Thanks to the generous support from its partners and supporters, it was renamed Pro Bono SG in 2022 to reflect the commitment of the Singaporean community to its mission of doing good.
Pro Bono SG's vision and mission are to facilitate access to justice for the needy and vulnerable, ensuring that everyone has access to justice in Singapore. To achieve this, Pro Bono SG works towards five objectives:
(1) To develop and ensure a just and efficient system for the provision of pro bono legal services in Singapore;
(2) To coordinate the provision of civil, criminal, and community pro bono legal services with various agencies;
(3) To recruit, train, and manage volunteers from the legal fraternity and beyond for the provision of pro bono services;
(4) To identify areas of need in the community for pro bono legal services; and
(5) To protect and assist the public on matters of the law relevant to their lives, particularly through programs to develop public legal literacy.
Pro Bono SG offers pro bono legal assistance to the most disadvantaged in the community, as well as for organizations serving the needy. It also supports lawyers undertaking pro bono work and other organizations engaged in access to justice initiatives. Pro Bono SG's policies focus on facilitating the recruitment and mobilization of volunteers for pro bono services, volunteer networking, the transfer and dissemination of information and ideas among volunteers, and encouraging law practices to support their lawyers to volunteer for pro bono work.
Pro Bono SG's programs include Law Awareness programs for members of the public to increase their understanding of how the law applies in their daily lives, free basic legal advice for needy individuals through the Community Legal Clinics, criminal legal representation through the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, legal representation for persons with exceptional circumstances who do not meet the criteria for existing legal aid schemes through the Ad Hoc Pro Bono Scheme, legal representation for litigants facing family law issues through the Family Justice Support Services, and pro bono non-litigation corporate legal assistance for community organizations through the Community Organization Clinic, Project Law Help, and Joint International Pro Bono Committee.
Pro Bono SG provides a range of programs to support its volunteers, including capacity building and training talks, the Assisted High Priority Pro Bono Scheme, the Volunteer Initiative Support Scheme, and the Social Service Agency referral service. It also collaborates with other organizations on access to justice initiatives and provides resources to organizations initiating or administering pro bono programs.
Pro Bono SG collaborates or has collaborated with a wide range of organizations in Singapore, including the Agency for Integrated Care, Arts Resource Hub, Association of Corporate Counsel, Association of Women for Action and Research, Centre for Domestic Employees, Centre for Non-Profit Leadership, Community Development Councils, Community Justice Centre, Family Justice Courts, Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training, Ground Up Movements, HealthServe, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, Justice Without Borders, Migrant Workers' Centre, Ministry of Law, Ministry of Social and Family Development, National Arts Council, National Council of Social Service, National Trade Union Congress, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, People's Association, Public Interest Law Network, Singapore Academy of Law, Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise.
As part of our mission to facilitate access to justice, Pro Bono SG places great importance on increasing public knowledge of legal issues that impact the lives of members of the public. By doing so, we aim to dispel misconceptions and misunderstandings about the law in Singapore and promote greater public legal literacy. To achieve this goal, we have various projects, talks, webinars, seminars, videos, and publications on the law.
Besides general law awareness talks for the public we have strategic collaborations to reach specific segments of the community, e.g., partnership with the National Trades Union Congress NTUC for LawWorks, which aims to educate union members and workers on their legal rights. We also collaborate with various partners such as the National Arts Council, Arts Resource Hub, and the Esplanade for Advocates for the Arts (AfA) to provide legal awareness talks for the creative industry. Project Schools, which promotes law awareness mindedness among youth, reaches thousands of students every year.
Overall, our efforts to increase legal literacy in the community have been successful, with high attendance numbers and positive feedback from attendees. We remain committed to providing relevant and practical legal knowledge to those who need it most.
Pro Bono SG is committed to serving the community by providing access to justice through legal clinics, both in-person and virtual, to different vulnerable communities in Singapore.
Community Legal Clinic
The Community Legal Clinic (CLC) is an important effort by Pro Bono SG to facilitate access to justice. Individuals who face personal legal problems in Singapore but cannot afford lawyers can register for a free one-off 20-minute consultation with a volunteer lawyer. These consultations provide basic legal guidance and act as a first port of call for help. Applicants are also directed to available resources, raising awareness among the public on not just legal rights but also other avenues of help.
Virtual Legal Clinics
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pro Bono SG pivoted from physical to virtual consultations. Before the virtual consultation, Pro Bono SG offers an optional guided trial session to help users with navigating the video-conference platform. As with the physical consultations, Pro Bono SG staff remain present at all times to assist with any queries. Pro Bono SG continues to hold physical consultations alongside virtual ones.
Youth Legal Clinic
Pro Bono SG holds legal clinics for individuals thirty-five years old and younger. This allows young applicants to feel more at ease and better understood in the unique challenges they face. Top five case profiles for Youth Legal Clinics include Employment and Workplace Issues, Divorce/ PPO (Personal Protection Order)/Maintenance/Custody, General Service and Hire Agreements (Consumer service disputes), Criminal Charges, and Landlord/ Tenant.
Pro Bono SG supports Network Clinics operated by other organizations. These clinics serve specific sectors of our community, be it through closer proximity to vulnerable individuals' place of residence or specialized knowledge of the distinct needs of the beneficiaries of the organizations.
Migrant Worker and Cross-Jurisdictional Clinics
Pro Bono SG has introduced several specialized clinics to cater to the unique needs of diverse communities. The Migrant Worker Legal Clinic provides legal assistance with interpretation to meet the diverse language needs of the migrant worker community. Pro Bono SG also started a cross-jurisdictional legal clinic in collaboration with the Paris Bar Association to provide guidance on both Singapore and French law matters for women victims of violence who are part of the French community in Singapore.
Ad Hoc Pro Bono Scheme
The Ad Hoc Pro Bono Scheme (AHPBS) aims to provide access to justice for all by supporting vulnerable individuals who require legal assistance due to exceptional circumstances. AHPBS is a referral-only scheme that provides free legal representation to individuals who do not qualify for other legal aid schemes but are in dire need of help. Referrers, such as courts, social service agencies, government organizations, other legal aid schemes, and lawyers, act as a filter to ensure that only truly needy individuals who have exhausted all other avenues are matched with volunteer lawyers. The individuals are then subjected to stringent means and merits testing before being connected with a lawyer.
Criminal Legal Aid Scheme
The Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS) is a critical component of the Law Society's efforts to provide access to justice. Since its establishment in 1985, CLAS has helped thousands of impecunious accused persons navigate the daunting criminal justice system. CLAS serves all needy accused persons facing non-capital charges, regardless of nationality. The CLAS Committee, which comprises experienced criminal practitioners, oversees the scheme and ensures that it functions optimally. The committee also provides mentorship and guidance to CLAS Fellows, junior lawyers who join the charity to pursue pro bono legal service as a full-time calling. The Fellows represent needy and vulnerable individuals who cannot afford lawyers in court through our criminal legal aid and ad hoc pro bono services. The CLAS Fellows are mentored by CLAS Advocates, former Fellows who have chosen to dedicate their professional careers to pro bono criminal defence and the mentorship of like-minded junior lawyers.
Family Justice Support Scheme
The Family Justice Support Scheme (FJSS) fills service gaps by supporting beneficiaries facing matrimonial matters who fall through the cracks. The scheme assists litigants who marginally fail the Legal Aid Bureau's means test but cannot afford lawyers at commercial rates by referring them to competent FJSS Panel lawyers who agree to reduce their charges for pre-screened referrals. It also provides pro bono legal representation to foreign spouses with Singaporean children who would qualify for legal aid under the means test but do not due to their non-citizen or non-permanent resident status.
Pro Bono SG is committed to serving the most vulnerable members of society in a comprehensive and accessible manner. In 2023, the organization established its first branch office in the heartlands of Singapore to collaborate with social workers and lead the way in integrated legal care for those who are socially excluded. This approach combines various disciplines to offer holistic legal and social support to those in need. As society becomes increasingly digitized, many assistance programs are accessible primarily online, which may exclude segments of the population, particularly the elderly and non-literate individuals who require personal attention. Pro Bono SG aims to bridge this gap by providing a high-touch approach to help those who are at risk of being left behind.
For further information, please contact: Pro Bono SG, 1 Havelock Square #B1-18 I State Courts I Singapore 059724; ph: +65 6216 1402 I, general: +65 6536 0650, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; and www.probono.sg.