RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Chairman Tan Chong Huat shares about an Eldercare Project the Foundation is collaborating with SMU Pro Bono Centre to empower elderly Singaporeans to take charge of their future affairs

RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Chairman Tan Chong Huat shares about an Eldercare Project the Foundation is collaborating with SMU Pro Bono Centre to empower elderly Singaporeans to take charge of their future affairs

RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Chairman Tan Chong Huat shares about an Eldercare Project the Foundation is collaborating with SMU Pro Bono Centre to empower elderly Singaporeans to take charge of their future affairs.

This article was first published in TODAY on 6 October 2017.

SMU law students to help empower the elderly

Source: TODAY © Mediacorp Press Ltd.
Date: 6 October 2017
Author: Koh Swee Fang Valerie

SINGAPORE – Law students from the Singapore Management University (SMU) will gain exposure to the legal needs of an ageing population under a new project of the university’s Pro Bono Centre.

Part of a tie-up with the RHT Rajan Menon Foundation, the Eldercare Project will see the students assisting lawyers in the drafting of wills and Lasting Power of Attorney documents. It will begin in the next two months. A S$300,000 donation by the foundation will fund manpower costs -- such as the hiring of an executive to oversee the project and other new programmes of the SMU Pro Bono Centre.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows one to appoint others to make decisions on his behalf should he lose mental capacity.

A five-year partnership between the centre and the foundation announced on Friday (Oct 6) will have lawyers from RHTLaw Taylor Wessing working with the People’s Action Party Community Foundation to reach out to the elderly, to teach them about legal matters related to financial planning and personal affairs.

This would empower some elderly Singaporeans to take charge of their future affairs, said RHT Rajan Menon Foundation chairman Tan Chong Huat.

“It’s very easy to say Singapore has a (rapidly) ageing population, but it’s only when you’re actually dealing with the situation that you realise the ramifications it has on society,” said the centre’s director Rathna Koman. “And when you give a student that kind of learning experience, it really adds to their growth.”

The SMU Pro Bono Centre began in 2013 and all SMU law students are required to do at least 20 hours of pro bono work before they can graduate. The average student clocks 37 hours.

Students serve at the centre’s three-hour legal clinic on Friday nights. They support lawyers who help individuals involved in physical violence and other criminal matters, or who are involved in divorce. Other cases involve contract issues relating to employment, for example.

One to two lawyers are typically on duty each time and see about six cases a night. The centre has handled more than 600 cases so far.

The clinics are held at the Pro Bono Centre, which moved from SMU’s Administration Building to its School of Law at Armenian Street in February.

Former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong was at the centre’s official launch on Friday and urged students to volunteer their services. He is an advisor to the centre.

SMU law dean Goh Yihan said pro bono work would allow students to graduate with not only a solid grasp of the law, but also “soft skills”. They would learn the practice of law is not about themselves, and is more than the drafting of legal documents in a posh Raffles Place office, he said.

Third-year student Niranjanaa Ram, 21, said volunteering at the centre has helped her to apply textbook knowledge. “As students, all we see are readings or words and it doesn’t come alive until you see people having the same disputes and same worries -- and then you realise how important it is, what you’re studying,” she said.