Pro Bono SG launches Community Law Centre to deliver integrated legal helpcare in the North-East together with community partners
Pro Bono SG’s inaugural Community Law Centre officially opened today, 31 January 2023, to bring legal assistance closer to those with mobility and technology challenges and holistically help and heal vulnerable members of the community facing legal issues, hand in hand with community partners such as Family Service Centres, Social Service Offices and Social Service Agencies.
Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Pro Bono SG, R. S. Solomon Foundation, Singapore University of Social Sciences and Tian De Temple on 20 August 2022, the Community Law Centre is hosted in container offices on Tian De Temple’s premises in close proximity to rental flats and at least 40 community partners. R. S. Solomon Foundation (established by R. S. Solomon LLC), mobilised the key funding support required to set up the Community Law Centre. The Singapore University of Social Sciences will be supporting the Community Law Centre’s manpower needs by recommending suitable graduates to be recruited as full-time lawyers and students for internship opportunities.
The Community Law Centre will:
- Facilitate or provide legal representation to socially excluded persons;
- Develop robust cross-referral networks with community partners in each district to provide legal assistance alongside non-legal support services to socially excluded persons in the community;
- Provide training and support to community partner staff and, where relevant, their volunteers in identifying potential unmet legal needs among socially excluded beneficiaries and referring those persons for follow-up assistance at the Community Law Centre;
- Provide training and support to volunteer lawyers serving at Pro Bono SG’s network of community legal clinics and pro bono representation schemes;
- Conduct law awareness talks for socially excluded persons/their caregivers to equip them with functional legal knowledge of their rights and protections; and
- Build up a corpus of best practices and knowledge database to guide excellence in integrated legal care.
More on the Community Law Centre, Pro Bono SG (North East) at Tian De Temple
For Mandarin version, please click here.
- Who is Pro Bono SG?
Pro Bono SG is a registered charity with an Institution of a Public Character status which aids the needy and vulnerable so that all may have access to justice in Singapore.
Through its range of legal initiatives, Pro Bono SG:
(1) Raises general legal awareness through talks, workshops, and publications for all segments of society;
(2) Provides greater access to legal guidance through clinic consultations; and
(3) Advocates for the vulnerable with meritorious cases by matching them with lawyers who represent them for free or at low cost.
Once a department within The Law Society of Singapore and later corporatised as Law Society Pro Bono Services, we renamed as Pro Bono SG in 2022 to reflect the commitment of all in Singapore to embrace our mission of doing good in the community.
To achieve better outcomes for our beneficiaries, Pro Bono SG works hand in hand with community partners to provide holistic socio-legal support.
- What is the Community Law Centre?
Community Law Centres are Pro Bono SG’s branch offices in the heartlands, set up to provide legal assistance to the most socially excluded, while leveraging on a cross-referral network of community partners which are often their first port of call for help.
A key feature of our Community Law Centres is the close partnership with other community partners in the area such as Family Service Centres, Social Service Offices and Social Service Agencies. Bringing legal assistance closer to those with mobility and technological challenges leads to a much more efficient and upstream rendering of socio-legal aid.
The Community Law Centre set up at Tian De Temple is Pro Bono SG’s first branch office, which will focus on the needs of the North East community, as defined by the Community Development Council. It will provide the full range of services available at Pro Bono SG’s main office and is open to all regardless of nationality, race, and religion.
Pro Bono SG aims to eventually set up a total of 5 Community Law Centres mapping the Community Development Council districts.
- What is the gap that the Community Law Centre is trying to fill?
Greater upstream assistance for vulnerable individuals
Presently, vulnerable individuals who need legal help will either need to travel to the legal aid service provider (mostly in the Central Business District), access the services online, or work with a community partner/social service professional.
The new Community Law Centre , Pro Bono SG (North East) at Tian De Temple aims to reach out to the North East community to benefit the mobility or technologically-impaired, and those with time or financial constraints who are unable to travel further for help.
Capacity building and assistance for community partners
Based on a legal needs survey and our engagement with social workers, there is a demand for the Community Law Centres to provide a quick and direct avenue of legal help for community partners within the vicinity.
Community Law Centres will hold capacity-building initiatives to equip both community partners and the public with legal information, help them identify legal issues, and guide them on next steps in a legal crisis.
By moving legal assistance upstream and working closely with partners who are intimately familiar with the community’s needs, vulnerable individuals will benefit from holistic socio-legal aid.
- Why is the Community Law Centre in a temple?
Pro Bono SG welcomes partnerships with all who support access to justice.
Pro Bono SG is operating out of Tian De Temple as it is physically proximate to needy and vulnerable communities and has an established track record of philanthropy and providing help in the community, regardless of nationality, race or religion, including through food distribution, free funeral/cremation services, disbursing bursaries to students and medical assistance. They also organise events to celebrate key festivals which promote community building such as Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations with Halal mooncakes.
Tian De Temple is generously housing our Community Law Centre on their premises free of charge, which keeps the operating costs of the centre low.
- How is the Community Law Centre different from Pro Bono SG’s office in the Help Centre of the State Courts?
Community Law Centres are branch offices of Pro Bono SG, which provides the same service offerings at our main office. However, the Community Law Centre at Tian De Temple, being the North East branch, will have a specific focus on the North East community and work closely with community partners in the area to deliver community-based integrated legal care.
- How is Pro Bono SG different from other legal aid providers (e.g. Legal Aid Bureau, Public Defender’s Office, legal clinics).
Pro Bono SG will work closely with, and sensibly complement available legal aid schemes run by other organisations to plug access to justice gaps.
Pro Bono SG may help those who do not qualify for other national legal aid schemes in the following situations:
(1) When individuals marginally fail the other organisations’ means tests, but are still unable to afford paid legal services and/or demonstrate urgent or exceptional need; and
(2) Needy foreigners who are ineligible for national legal aid schemes, including migrant workers and spouses.
Pro Bono SG represents individuals who meet our eligibility criteria, which extends beyond the guidance provided via legal clinic consultations.
Finally, we provide trusted information referrals to other assistance schemes run by other organisations in appropriate cases, in order to optimise the use of limited resources and avoid duplication of services.
- What are the services available at the Community Law Centre?
All Pro Bono SG services, such as legal awareness initiatives, clinic consultations, and legal representation, are available for registration at Community Law Centres. These centres will have an e-kiosk for individuals who do not have technology or internet access at home. We will assist individuals who need guidance and support on applicable services and the registration process.
Lawyers will be present to provide legal guidance. Registration before the consultation is required.
- Are the services free?
Pro Bono SG provides free and low-cost services for the needy, depending on their financial circumstances. Generally, legal information and guidance at clinics are free while legal representation services are subject to a means test to decide whether payment of a small sum is necessary on a case-by-case basis.
- What languages will the services be provided in?
Generally, Pro Bono SG will be able to provide its services in the 4 official languages of Singapore – English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. We will endeavour to support the interpretation or translation of other languages through our network of volunteers.
- How long does it take for an application to be processed?
Generally, a consultation for legal guidance takes 1-2 weeks to be scheduled. As for legal representation services, it may take up to 6 weeks due to the need for means and merits testing.
The time frame is highly dependent on the applicant providing the required information and documents in a timely manner.
- What if the application is urgent?
Urgent cases will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
- Can an applicant see a lawyer on the same day?
While Pro Bono SG and its Community Law Centre will be running clinic consultations on a daily to weekly basis, individuals should register their interest in advance to ensure that the session will be a fruitful one. Urgent matters will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to decide if a same-day consultation is necessary.
- Who can sign up for services at the Community Law Centre?
While the Community Law Centre, Pro Bono SG (North East) at Tian De Temple will facilitate registrations for Pro Bono SG’s services for the whole community in Singapore, the Community Law Centre will prioritise serving the North East community. Generally, only needy individuals who have yet to seek legal advice will be eligible for clinic consultations, and only individuals who pass the means test, with meritorious cases, will be eligible for legal representation services. Please refer to https://www.probono.sg/get-legal-help/legal-representation/ for more information.
- How can an applicant sign up for services at Pro Bono SG or the Community Law Centre specifically?
You may call 1800 776 2666 (1800 PRO BONO), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website www.probono.sg.
Should you have issues calling, emailing or accessing our website, you may visit Pro Bono SG’s offices at the State Courts or our Community Law Centre.
Address:1 Havelock Square #B1-18 State Courts Singapore 059724
Address: Community Law Centre, Pro Bono SG (North East) at Tian De Temple, 109 Hougang Ave 5, Singapore 538817
Office operating hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Closed on weekends and public holidays.
Hotline operating hours: Monday to Friday, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Closed on weekends and public holidays.
- If an applicant wishes to walk in, what types of documents should he/she bring?
As the type of documents vary with the services required, it is advisable to call us at 1800 776 2666 (1800 PRO BONO), email us at email@example.com, or visit our website www.probono.sg for guidance or information.
Generally, all documents relating to the subject matter such as court documents, contracts in dispute, and correspondence with the adverse party should be brought along.
- Can an application be made on behalf of the person needing legal aid e.g. family member, friend, caregiver, social worker etc?
Yes, if consent is sought beforehand.
- What can an applicant do if his/her application is rejected by the Community Law Centre?
Pro Bono SG and its Community Law Centre will provide potential next steps for the applicant’s consideration.
- What types of community partners do the Community Law Centre want to work with?
Pro Bono SG works with any organisation serving the community, such as the Community Development Councils, Community Centres, Family Service Centres, Social Service Offices, and Social Service Agencies. Community partners can call us at 1800 776 2666 (1800 PRO BONO) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- What types of volunteers are required?
Pro Bono SG welcomes all volunteers interested in facilitating access to justice, particularly if you are legally-trained and/or can assist with interpretation/translation. Please register with us through this form to be kept updated on our volunteering opportunities.
- How is the Community Law Centre funded?
Through donations from the generous public and contributions from grant makers. Visit https://www.probono.sg/get-involved/donate/ to find out how to donate.
Last updated in January 2023