Volunteer lawyers and SMU students recognised for their exemplary pro bono contribution

Singapore, 17 December 2020 (Thursday) – Singapore Management University (SMU) Pro Bono Centre has lauded the dedication and contribution of several individuals for their pro bono efforts. 

SMU Juris Doctor graduate Ms Shim Eunkyung and SMU LLB graduate Ms Ong Jia Xin Abigail, both from the Class of 2020, were recognised for having contributed the most number of approved pro bono hours in the year.  Respectively, they contributed 424.5 hours and 138.8 hours in approved pro bono work, to be precise.

For the second consecutive year, volunteer lawyer Mr Richard Tan Ming Kirk stood out for having participated the most number of times this year at the SMU Pro Bono Centre Legal Clinic. The Centre also recognised the commitment of Mr Alvin Ong Chee Keong for serving more than five years as a volunteer lawyer at the Centre’s Legal Clinic.

Here is a summary of the SMU Pro Bono Centre Special Service Awards 2020:

Award Recipient
Spirit of Pro Bono Award – Class of 2020 (JD) Ms Shim Eunkyung
Spirit of Pro Bono Award – Class of 2020 (LLB) Ms Ong Jia Xin Abigail

Volunteer Lawyer (participated most times at the SMU PBC Legal Clinic)

Mr Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Volunteer Lawyer (five-year long service award) Mr Alvin Ong Chee Keong


In addition to the special awards, the Pro Bono Centre also gave out certificates of appreciation (by mail) to 17 JD graduates and 32 LLB graduates from the Class of 2020 who completed all of their university community service requirement (50 hours and 80 hours respectively) in approved pro bono work; as well as to 28 volunteer lawyers (22 of whom are SMU Law alumni) in recognition of their participation at the Centre’s Legal Clinic in 2020.

Furthermore, the SMU Mediation and Negotiation Club was also named winner of the inaugural RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Pro Bono Challenge for conceiving and developing the idea of a Pro Bono Mediation Clinic.  The competition was organised to encourage SMU Law students to come up with ideas of projects that will help solve an unmet legal need after researching on the gaps that exist in the community.  Commencing in January 2021, the SMU Pro Bono Centre Mediation Clinic, which will be administered by the Pro Bono Centre with the help of professional mediators and SMU Law students, will provide pro bono mediation services to the financially disadvantaged in Singapore. (Please see Annex 2 for more details.)

Professor of Law Chan Wing Cheong, who is also Director of the SMU Pro Bono Centre, said, “2020 has been a tumultuous year, with pro bono placements involving physical interaction being cancelled during the circuit breaker, nevertheless we are pleased that the Class of 2020 managed to achieve the highest average number of approved pro bono hours in the last four years.  I am also heartened that SMU Law students tapped on their creative talents, legal expertise and tenacity to give back to the community.”

“Our work would not have been possible without the tremendous support of many individuals and organisations.  Community service is integral to the SMU ethos and is in every student’s DNA even before pro bono became compulsory for Law students in Singapore.  To all our partners, we thank you for believing in us and supporting our efforts in giving our young Law students a holistic education that will enable them to make a meaningful impact in society when they enter the profession.  I also wish to express our gratitude to RHT Rajan Menon Foundation for their generous gift of $300,000 that supports us for five years from Academic Year 2017-2018,” he added.

The SMU Pro Bono Centre also released its 2020 annual report this month.  The SMU Pro Bono Centre free Legal Clinic which started in 2013 has grown from a fortnightly service to a weekly service since 2017.  Between January and September 2020, the Clinic saw a total of 199 applicants, 74.4% of whom are Singaporeans, and 41.2% earned less than $4,000 per month.

The Pro Bono Centre’s 2020 survey found that more than 8 in 10 applicants were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘quite satisfied’ with the service they received, and more than 9 in 10 indicated that they will return to the Clinic if they have new legal issues and will also recommend it to others.  Most applicants found out about the Legal Clinic through online resource (48.3%), family members (18.5%) and the Law Society Pro Bono Services (9.3%).  In 2020, the most common issues presented at the Legal Clinic comprised family issues (18.6%), employment issues (13.1%), Covid-19 related issues (8.5%), tenancy issues (8.0%) and criminal matters (7.0%).

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  • Annex 1: Profiles of award recipients
  • Annex 2: About the RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Pro Bono Challenge
  • Annex 3: Fact sheet – Community service and pro bono contribution by SMU law students