Over a three-month period from June to August, NUS Law engages in a long-held tradition of welcoming new freshmen into the school through a series of Orientation programs. This series aims to cover the highlights of this year’s Orientation.

Freshmen Orientation Pro Bono Projects

After Law Camp, the Pro Bono Projects kick in, allowing freshmen to discover a unique side of the legal profession – pro bono. Pro bono allows lawyers and law students alike to capitalise on legal knowledge and skillsets to give back to society. 

While the freshmen are not allowed to dispense legal advice, these projects provided them a platform for them to not only expose themselves to the less privileged, but also ease them into the life of a law student.

This year, five projects were organised, with more than 130 freshmen participating. Apart from Projects Build, LAWs, Legal Clinics and Golden Years, this year boasts a brand-new project, Project Link.

 

Project BUILD

BUILD is a project through which freshmen can gain a greater understanding of the legal issues that migrant workers in Singapore face, and inform these workers about their rights. The project was conducted in collaboration with the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that champions fair employment practices and the well-being of migrant workers.

This year’s run of BUILD began on 25 June 2019 with a talk by an MWC representative that served as an introduction to the workers’ lives, followed by a tour of Tuas View Dormitory, and finally an interaction session with migrant workers. The freshmen had dinner with the workers in a small-group setting, with about a 3:2 ratio of students to workers. This allowed for deeper conversation that provided insight into the daily routines of these workers, as well as the issues they face – not just the legal facets, but also social and economic ones.

Photo: Freshmen touring Tuas View Dormitory.

Photo: Freshmen interacting with the migrant workers.

Following the introductory session, freshmen then had to prepare presentations for the workers, with a focus on employment law, compensation schemes, and work safety. The students were given prepared, vetted information, which then had to be translated into engaging and easy-to-digest presentations. These were held on 30 June 2019, with 6 groups of 5-7 students each presenting the information to small groups of workers.

Both the freshmen and the migrant workers were very engaged throughout the project, with the freshmen asking many insightful questions during their initial briefing, and the workers sacrificing precious time at the end of the day, or on their one free day, to attend the sessions.

Photo: At the end of the day, the freshmen and workers gathered for a group photo.

Project Legal Awareness Workshops (LAW)

LAW is a project focused on raising legal awareness among youth-at-risk. Through this project, freshmen have the opportunity to interact with and educate these youth about pertinent issues and laws that concern young people.

The beneficiary that LAWs worked with this year is Assumption Pathway School (APS), which is a specialized school for students who are unable to access or complete secondary education. It was in conjunction with APS that the themes for this year’s performances were chosen – cyber-crimes, labour law and general youth-focused crimes such as theft, drug-related crimes and sexual offences.

The freshmen were split into 3 teams, with each team having to prepare a presentation on their given area of law through a different medium. The team for general crimes prepared a video, the team for labour law prepared a skit, and the team for cyber-crimes prepared a forum-theatre style skit that involved the audience having to make choices that affected the narrative.

Photo: The team for general crimes filming their video.

Photo: The team for labour law presenting their skit.

Photo: The team for cyber-crimes practising their forum-theatre style skit.

The project began with an initial briefing on 25 June 2019, and culminated with the performances on 19 July 2019. Through this entire period, the freshmen worked tirelessly to prepare engaging and yet informative presentations, and the effort paid off as the beneficiary students were highly entertained and engaged during the performances. They actively answered questions during quizzes at the end of the performances, and were eager to make decisions for the main character in the forum-theatre style skit.

Project Legal Clinics

On 21 July 2019, the Legal Clinics project launched with a pro bono briefing by Ms. Regana Zara Mydin and Ms Sadhana Rai. As representatives from the Law Society Pro Bono Services Office, they introduced the freshmen to what pro bono entails and what they do. Apart from the Legal Clinics, the freshmen got exposed to a myriad of other opportunities that they can choose to volunteer for, including Project Law Help, the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and Advocates for the Arts.

Photo: Ms. Mydin presenting to the freshmen on pro bono.

After the insightful briefing, the freshmen then signed up for slots at legal clinics. At these sessions, the freshmen got to witness firsthand how practicing lawyers take on pro bono cases. They were also involved in the process itself, sitting in sessions and assisting lawyers to keep records of each clinic session.

 

Project Golden Years

The Golden Years Project (GYP) is the only one of the pro bono projects that targets the elderly in our community, and also one that collaborates with Lions Befrienders, Law Society Pro Bono Services and the Singapore Management University School of Law.

This year, GYP hosted an interaction day as well as 3 legal talks spanning various Senior Activity Centers. The interaction day featured “befriending” segments where the freshmen and the elderly worked on mosaic art, played games such as “The Price Is Right” and even jammed out to old songs together. The success of interaction day was evident from the smiles on the participants’ faces as the freshmen bid them goodbye till the legal talks.

Photo: The freshmen and the elderly making mosaic art together during interaction day. 

The legal talks, which took place after interaction day, were also well received thanks to the help of the lawyers who came down to educate the elderly on the importance of advance planning. The talks covered senior-centric issues such as will writing and the advanced medical directive. A volunteer from the NUS Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) project also volunteered his time to discuss the importance of creating an LPA. 

Photo: The volunteer lawyer educating the elderly on what an Advanced Medical Directive is.

The talks were given in English, Chinese and in dialects. The speakers were also happy to take questions from the elderly to assuage doubts that they had about the necessity of advance planning. 

The freshmen were able to translate and elaborate the content of the talks further by using brochures that were created by the GYP Committee. These brochures were also translated to Chinese and Malay so that the elderly could refer to them at home. 

Photo: At the end of the project, the participants gathered for a quick picture.

Project Link

Project Link is the newest project in Freshmen Orientation’s suite of projects. It aims to empower underprivileged students about to enter the workforce with some knowledge of the laws regarding employment. 

This year, Project LINK collaborated with the Sengkang Family Service Centre and the Salvation Army Youth Development Centre to deliver presentations about matters relating to employment to the youths’ employment rights. A wide range of topics were covered, such as restrictions on the employment of youths, workplace health and safety issues as well as dealing with workplace harassment. 

Photo: Freshmen presenting on the Employment Act.

The information was presented in a manner that encouraged active participation from the youths, such as in the format of a gameshow and through made-up scenarios, with prizes given out to those who answered correctly. This was well received by the youths who participated enthusiastically. At the end of the presentations, the freshmen and the youths also had an opportunity to interact with each other while playing icebreaker games that incited a lot of laughter. 

Photo: Participants eagerly answering questions in the quiz segment.

[Photos taken by Justified and NUS Law Orientation 2019, Creative Committee]

Ding Hang

Written in conjunction with Tapasya Singh and Shilpa Krishnan.