Rendering legal assistance to the poor, disadvantaged
At 78 years of age, he had hoped to be living out his years in the comfort of his home surrounded by family. Instead, Alan (not his real name) spends his days sitting at public parks. When it rains, he goes into shopping malls to enjoy the air-conditioning but he is often chased away by security guards.
At night, from 10pm-4am each day, he works as a security guard at a hostel. Here he may try to catch 40 winks on a makeshift bed at his duty post outside the hostel. He works every night, without any day off, and in return he is provided with a place to “stay”, basic meals and $500 per month.
Alan has no place to call home. The money he earns goes into medication for his high blood pressure, heart condition and other ailments related to his old age. He is divorced and is estranged from his three daughters.
Feeling lost and desperate, he turned to one of the Pro Bono Legal Clinics run by the Catholic Lawyers Guild (CLG) for help as well as legal representation in court from Ms Jeanny Ng, one of CLG’s senior and stalwart volunteer lawyers, With CLG’s assistance, Alan was relieved of the financial burden of paying alimony to his ex-wife. He also did not have to pay for the legal advice and the legal representation in Court.
The CLG is a society of Catholic Lawyers in Singapore, affiliated to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore. It serves to render legal assistance to the financially poor and disadvantaged persons in matters of the law. This is in line with the twin aims of the CLG: Faith in Action and Faith Formation.
The CLG is made up of not just lawyers in practice but all in the legal fraternity – judges, lawyers in practice, lawyers in government, in-house Counsels, legally trained non-practising lawyers who have taken up different vocations, and also law students. All these legally trained individuals with different vocations come together and function in unity as one Catholic fraternity in the body in Christ.
The CLG Pro Bono Legal Clinics were set up to assist and help or render legal aid, provide legal representation in court for the financially poor and disadvantaged persons. It is also an avenue for disputing parties to resolve their disputes amicably.
Since the inception of its first Pro Bono legal clinic at the Church of the Risen Christ more than 10 years ago, CLG’s Pro Bono legal clinics have served many of the needy, of all faiths. The CLG currently runs five Pro Bono Legal Clinics, at Agape Village, the Church of Saint Teresa, St Joseph’s Church (Bukit Timah), Church of the Holy Family and Church of the Divine Mercy.
These 5 CLG Pro Bono legal clinics are in service every Monday, throughout the year.
Besides legal advice and legal representation in court, CLG’s Pro Bono legal clinics also provide pro bono mediation service.
Mediation as a means of alternative dispute resolution without going to court, has gained traction in Singapore. CLG believes that mediation is the most Christian way of resolving a dispute and is a natural extension of CLG’s Pro Bono legal services.
To fund CLG’s Pro Bono legal services as well as its faith formation activities, Ms Ng and other CLG members work tirelessly to help raise funds to supplement the grant from Caritas Singapore. Some have done so in innovative ways. Former CLG President Jimmy Yim unselfishly pledged his birthday gifts and continues to volunteer time at the pro bono clinics. CLG Secretary Cosmas Gomez pledged the legal fees that he earned on a case back to fund CLG activities.
CLG’s future plans are to run these legal clinics in other parishes in Singapore so that they can, where there is a need, offer their services to meet that need.
The CLG also organises the Red Mass at the beginning of every year to consecrate the work of each lawyer, whether or not in practice, to God.
Ms Peggy Yee is the President of the Catholic Lawyers Guild.
If you are legally trained and would like to be part of CLG’s Pro Bono Legal Clinics, or would like to find out more about the CLG, or to make a contribution towards the CLG’s pro bono efforts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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