THE CATHOLIC LAWYERS GUILD formally launched its "Pro Bono" Legal Aid Scheme at the St. Thomas More Mass which was celebrated on Jun 22 at St. Joseph's Church along Victoria Street.

"Pro Bono" is a phrase derived from Latin meaning "for the good". The complete phrase is "pro bono publico", "for the public good". It is used to designate legal or other professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, as a public service.

In this case, "pro bono" counselling assists individuals or groups on legal cases, in filing government applications, petitions, or appeals.

"The Committee recognizes that as lawyers in the local community, it is essential there be unity in purpose and means to fulfil the call for social justice, even while recognizing that we live in a secular state," wrote Ivan Lee, vice-president of the Catholic Lawyers Guild and chairman of the "Pro Bono" Legal Aid Scheme Committee. "For this purpose, it is essential that none be deprived of access to legal advice."

With the aid of Fathers John Sim and Johnson Fernandez, the parish priests of the Churches of the Risen Christ and The Holy Trinity respectively, the Legal Clinics shall be provided on the 2nd Monday of every month at the Church of the Risen Christ and on the 4th Monday of every month at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The clinics will be open from 7.30-9.30pm on those days.

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The first clinic starts on Jul 10. At each of the legal counselling sessions, three Catholic lawyers will be present. The sessions are open to all who genuinely seek legal counselling.

The Guild will also have a panel of lawyers who will, in appropriate cases, render "pro bono" legal assistance to individuals in need of legal assistance and/or representations in legal proceedings.

Such cases will cover persons who, for one reason or another, do not qualify for legal aid under the provisions of the Legal Aid and Advice Act, the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, and the Public Trustees Act.

"Such assistance will be on a "pro bono" basis, and the Guild will, in all such cases, be guided always by the teachings of the faith, which sustains and strengthens in our united efforts to bring about social justice," wrote Mr Lee in the Committee's press release.

(Written with information from Ivan C. S. Lee)

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