– Members of the legal fraternity and the public are invited to provide feedback on a proposed scheme to make it mandatory for practising lawyers to provide Community Legal Services (“CLS”) to low-income and disadvantaged Singaporeans, in particular. The key objective is to provide a framework for the provision of free legal services to members of the community who may face challenges in gaining access to legal services. The focus of CLS will be in areas of community law such as family and criminal law.
Several key areas for feedback have been identified in a Discussion Paper that will be circulated to the legal community today. These include: who should come within CLS; the minimum number of CLS hours; and the scope of work to be covered under CLS.
It is proposed that all lawyers who hold practising certificates, including those who work in foreign law firms under the Qualifying Law Practice scheme and in Joint Law Ventures, participate in CLS.
It is proposed that lawyers contribute a minimum of 16 CLS hours per year. Those who perform more than the required hours will be allowed to carry forward a maximum of eight hours to the next year.
CLS will initially comprise only legal assistance in four broad areas: criminal legal aid; civil legal aid; community mediation including other voluntary services in the Subordinate Courts; and lastly, legal advisory work to institutions and charities which contribute to the community. The Singapore Academy of Law, Singapore Institute of Legal Education and the Law Society will offer refresher courses to lawyers who might want to update their knowledge in these and related areas of practice.
CLS will be administered by the Law Society of Singapore’s Pro Bono Services Office.