In the third segment of the Justified Sub-Club Series, we speak with the Pro Bono Group (“PBG”). Doing pro bono work is a rite of passage that most law students partake in, and PBG is the umbrella club for pro bono activities in law school.

So what is the PBG all about, and what are their Exco members like? Read on to find out what they have to say about it.

First things first, what does PBG do?

Denise: The NUS Pro Bono Group organizes and administrates over 14 projects currently. The practical aspects aside, I personally think the work PBG does is a great platform to instill a pro bono sentiment in future lawyers. Also, university is a time where you get to explore your interests and passions, and PBG acts as a facilitator for that, through our existing projects and the ideas you’re free to bring on board.

How is the club structured?

Denise: Our projects fall broadly into 3 categories – clinics, community education and research. The clinics include the clinical placements around the island, UCF and vacation attachments, which are commonly oversubscribed (not to worry though, we have expanded the number of placements in the past year and the growth doesn’t seem to be stopping just yet). Community education is something that is quite unique to Singapore pro bono, due to the limited legal involvement students can have because of the Legal Professions Act prohibitions. A genius came up with LEAP, surrounding the idea of awareness and education as the main thrust of how law students can be directly involved with pro bono work (thank you PBG ancestors ☺). LEAP (Legal Education and Awareness Programme) and the Moot Parliament Programme form the education arm of PBG. The current research work we have spans over corporate work (Project Law Help), human rights and educational supplements (LEAP Research).

How has PBG developed over the years?

Denise: We’ve definitely grown in numbers. From the 9 that pioneered the group some 9 years ago, we have a membership of 220 that spans across the undergraduates, the graduate students and a handful of LLM and SPP students. As an extension of that, the number of projects we have has increased as well. Last year, the Exco decided to initiate a project development team to encourage initiative and create a platform where PBG members could tap on our contacts and links.

In the recent few years, we’ve had the privilege of being the student voice in most matters pro bono, including the mandatory pro bono scheme.

The current Exco has streamlined internal processes and refined each of the projects. A few of the notable changes include the migrant workers’ projects, pro bono scoop, and increasing the pro bono slant in our events.

The migrant worker related projects include Justice without Borders (a research project), vacation attachments with TWC2 and Healthserve, and the Migrant Workers’ Awareness Week. This year witnessed a burst of ideas regarding this targeted group, and I’m proud to say that these were results of inter-project collaborations between clinics, project development and HOME, that was partly spearheaded by enthusiastic year 1 members (who have stepped up to be part of the next Exco coincidentally).

It’s always been a little more difficult to increase the pro bono involvement for our publicity and events teams who are mainly support committees. This year, we’ve revamped our newsletter to have opinion pieces written by our own members and share specific pro bono experiences in a bid to promote sharing within the group of the other projects as well. Not to mention, its appealing design renders it print-ready even.

The events team has continued pro bono dialogues, such as the recent In Session Dialogue in conjunction with SMU, and initiated support events to promote continued interaction with our beneficiaries. We will be conducting a fun day out for our LEAP beneficiary at Spectra Secondary School this holiday.

What do members get to do?

Denise: In the interest of not dragging this out, those interested can check out our publicity brochure (at http://nusprobono.com/2013/08/01/1372/) and website (at http://www.nusprobono.com) to learn more about each project specifically. ☺

Which PBG project do you personally feel the most for? Why?

Denise: This is a trap, I will not take sides hahaha.

How is the road ahead for PBG? What are your plans, and future vision?

Denise: Expansion is definitely in the future of PBG. We’re constantly looking to increase the scope and depth of our projects, and we hope to do so even more in the face of the mandatory pro bono scheme.

The new Exco for AY 14/15 has been selected, and we’re looking forward to the work of these bright-eyed and capable individuals. I’m sure they’ll bring us from strength to strength.

That sounds interesting! So how do we join PBG?

Denise: We will be having ad-hoc projects/attachments during the holidays, so a lookout for that (and continue to check your emails!)

PBG holds a welcome tea and recruitment drive at the start of every academic year, so that’s when we do the bulk of our recruitment. However, if you are ever interested in participating in our projects or collaborating with us, just email us at [email protected]

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The People Behind PBG – We get each PBG Exco member to dish the dirt on another.

President: Denise

Draft 1:

DENISE IS A TYRANT AND SHE WILL NOT STOP AT ANYTHING TO MAKE SURE HER OBJECTIVES ARE ACHIEVED. (PLEASE SEND HELP)

Draft 2:

DENISE STRIKES FEAR INTO THE HEARTS OF HER ENEMIES AND WE SPEAK SOFTLY SO AS NOT TO OFFEND HER.

Final edit:

Denise is the light and direction of the PBG. When she is not farming Facebook likes for her profile picture, she inspires the group to work toward the common goal of providing legal assistance for people in need. When we are stressed out, she tells us jokes to calm us down but they are not funny, which stresses her out. Over the past year we have learnt much about Denise and her passion to develop the group. 9/10 will work with President Tay again.

Vice-President: Wilson

Wilson appears like a serious man, with very organized thoughts and goals in life. After working with him for a year, this impression has been proven true. He is meticulous and responsible. He often helps to pull the Exco back on track with his timelines and reminders. Yet beneath that no-nonsense exterior, Wilson is humorous, witty and smiles quite a lot. He has not just been a privilege and joy to work with, but a pleasure to get to know as a friend.

Secretary: Mayann

“Secretary” has the same root word as “secret”. Don’t let that fool you though, because there are no secrets in the NUS Pro Bono Group – except perhaps this: Secretarial work involves half the sexiness and double the effort that people typically imagine. Till today, it puzzles me how Mayann manages to blast through the endless emails and minutes, all the while still smiling enigmatically and smelling like a daisy.

Treasurer: Shi Wee

Behind Shi Wee’s pretty smile, she’s also pretty good at math 😉 I don’t think we could have found a better treasurer for our group – the responsibility and foresight she displayed in handling funds, our members and events is certainly unrivalled. More than that, in her, I found a wonderful friend whom I could trust and rely on, definitely an invaluable addition to our pro bono group!

Project Development Director: Xinyuan

A reliable teammate who is an asset to the team and a joy to work with. I first thought Xinyuan was a quiet and reserved girl, but my impression of her quickly changed as we dived into our term. As the first ever Projects Development Head, Xinyuan spearheaded PBG’s expansion with quiet determination and unwavering passion. The enthusiasm with which her team expanded the Projects Development department’s agenda is evidence to her open-mindedness, commitment and leadership. XinYuan’s cheerful personality also make team meetings much more entertaining.

Events Director: Dorothy

Many of us may remember Dot from her spectacular stint as the much beloved OGL of an award winning OG during the FOC last year. Adding on to her repertoire, Dot has had a very eventful year being in the PBG Exco, organising many different events and always persevering through getting her comm members to take charge of the various projects. A stalwart member of the PBG Exco indeed!!

Publicity Director: Jeremy

The functional yet funky publicity materials that Jeremy produces indeed reflect his fun-loving, slightly-hipster personality. As Publicity Director, Jeremy’s good eye for combining colours, shapes and graphic material come in exceedingly useful to effectively promote the Pro Bono Group’s year-round activities to all in school. He is also prompt with meeting the many deadlines that may be thrown at him all at once.

HOME Director: Rachel

“Never judge a book by its cover.”

I remember when I was got to know Rachel, she struck me as this soft-spoken, and really gentle person. And I recall thinking to myself she is probably the last person you’d imagine to be championing the rights of migrant workers. But having worked with her over the past year, I believe we would all agree how fiercely dedicated and passionate she is over the cause; and it was with utmost pleasure that we had the opportunity to experience and share her enthusiasm.

LEAP Director: Shannon

It’s easy to tell when Shannon is around, because she tends to bring warmth and laughter with her wherever she goes – whether it’s with intentional jokes or unintentional hilarity, or putting people at ease with her genuine concern and instinctive kindness. She’s quietly and unremittingly persevering in the face of setbacks, working with clarity of purpose: a joy to work with and simply to be around.

LEAP Research Director: Elena

Excellence has never seen a greater form

Leap Research, under their Supreme Leader, seeks to passionately inform

Educating youth will never again be confined to the norm

Never underestimate the extent to which Leap Research has taken schools by storm

And most of all, it never fails to surprise how someone so little can be this warm

Legal Clinics Director: Jazi

Jazi is serious and knows what he is doing all the time. I mean, who can arrange so many legal clinics all on his own? But he has like the cutest Dobby-like ears, so that reduces the seriousness by just a little. All in all, truly Pro Bono Group’s finest.

MPP Director: Gideon

I have never personally interacted with Giddy until now as Exco members of PBG. Giddy strikes me as a sophisticated and witty person. He has the uncanny ability to always liven up the atmosphere and crack jokes during Exco meetings. Giddy is also passionate judging from his decision to run for the position of MPP head because he believed that he could improve and make the programme more exciting for the participants since he was himself a participant! I must say that we have grown tight over the year since we are now pool buddies and you will usually catch us at the lounge trying to outdo ourselves at pool. It was definitely a memorable experience working alongside Giddy.

/Note: they have a score tally on the PB room whiteboard.

Project Law Help Director: Manek

Manek Minhas,

I’ve learnt, is all class.

This paragon of poise and grace

Always in style with unfazed face

Fashionably wearing an expression of cool

(With a deftly arched eyebrow, to pity the fool)

So lest you wreck yourself, learn respect

And recognize the swag that is Manek

UCF Director: Dilshaad

Working with Dilshaad, as everyone in the PBG Exco would agree, has been ridiculously entertaining. Her vast repertoire of skills include, inter alia, a tremendous wit that can send a roomful of people into convulsions of laughter and facial expressions illustrating her thoughts with such accuracy that one is led to think: “res ipsa loquitur”.

UCF Director: Songkang

When you first clap your eyes on Song Kang, he looks like a stern, stoic, no-nonsense kind of man. When you get to know Song Kang, you realise that this is mostly true of him. Yet, at the same time he is someone you can always have a laugh with. Put all this together, and you have someone who was a pleasure to work with.

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