A Few Words from the Awardees of the Distinguished Pro Bono and Community Service Awards

Nick Chan, MH, Partner Squire Patton Boggs

It was my childhood goal to become a lawyer and use my legal knowledge and sound judgment to fight injustice and help those in need.  Lawyers are great problem-solvers.  It is important that we make time to help others in need, as their pressing problems should not have to remain unresolved until we have spare time. Together with my family and a team of passionate volunteers from all walks of life, we set aside time to make regular visits to primary schools in rural parts of China. It is our hope to help the next generation enrich their lives and broaden their international perspective by teaching them English, and sharing our life experiences, hobbies and knowledge with them.  In the end, I think we learned more from them on how to be thankful and appreciate even little things we take for granted and how to better spend quality time with our love ones without modern day distractions. Through this experience, the seeds to grow life-long friendships have been planted. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the 800+ lawyers, trainees and law school volunteers who have served with me since the inception of the Law Society TeenTalk event to guide and encourage 9,000+ secondary school students from all 18 districts and from other walks of life to learn legal knowledge, improve their analytical skills, listening skills, presentation skills and morale and ethical standards; this year marks my third year as Chairman of the OC of TeenTalk, and I thank all of you for the honour to serve with you. 

I thank the Agency for Volunteer Services for awarding me with their 3rd Leadership Bauhinia Volunteer Awardees in recognition of active volunteerism.  I also thank the Hong Kong Government for awarding me with a Medal of Honour in recognition of my civic service.  I thank the Law Society for bestowing me with the honour of the Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. 

To me, these awards recognise a truly team effort of a lot of good hearted lawyers and members of the Law Society. I hope these awards will unite and encourage others to provide more pro bono and community services. Together, let’s do good, and do well!

Vena Cheng, Senior Consultant Akin Grump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Ever since I was young, my parents would take every opportunity to teach us to reach out and help the less fortunate in our community.  My father has been a great role model and mentor, showing us how we can give back to society.  Over the years, I have worked with orphans, the elderly and the physically or learning disabled, with a particular passion for working with orphans.  One of the charities my firm, Akin Gump, and I have been proud to support is MedArt.  MedArt was founded by a small group of doctors who wanted to help the forgotten people in our community, including Chinese orphans born with severe birth defects. 

I have seen many Chinese orphans born with severe birth defects brought to health by doctors of MedArt, which significantly improves the children’s quality of life and frequently leads to them being adopted into loving families within a short period of time after recovering from surgery.  The time and money that firms like Akin Gump, I and other supporters have contributed to MedArt has helped changed the lives of these forgotten children, many of whom were rescued from the “dying rooms” in orphanages. The orphanages have neither the medical expertise nor the funding to help these children, many are simply left to die.  MedArt has brought new lives to hundreds of children, and the firm and I are very proud to partner with such a great organisation that makes such important contributions to our community.

Eric TM Cheung, Principal Lecturer and Director of Clinical Legal Education Faculty of Law, The University of Hong Kong

I am most honoured to have received the Distinguished Community Service Award 2016 in recognition of the pro bono legal service provided through the Clinical Legal Education (“CLE”) Programme of the Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong. The CLE Programme was first introduced in January 2010 as a credit bearing elective course for senior law students. Apart from equipping students with the essential lawyering skills through handling real cases under the close supervision of experienced lawyers, the CLE Programme also serves to provide valuable community service for unmet legal needs and to nurture students with a pro bono ethos and long-term commitment to public service. Through helping clients who feel distressed as a result of the daunting legal process, students see the important role that a conscientious and passionate lawyer can play.

During the Award Period from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2016, 194 clients surveyed expressed very high level of satisfaction to the free legal advice given to them (with 96 percent positive or highly positive rating). We also received more than 60 letters from prison inmates to seek assistance for their appeals. In some of these cases, after studying the relevant documents with assistance from our law students, we took the view that there were meritorious grounds of appeal even though legal aid was earlier refused on the ground of a lack of merits, and after our explanations and liaison with the Legal Aid Department, legal aid was re-granted to them. In exceptional situations, we also provided pro bono legal representation through law firms to deserving clients in real need in order to help rectify miscarriages of justice. For example, in HKSAR v Law Yat Ting (2015) 18 HKCFAR 420, the defendant was convicted of the offence of tampering with a motor vehicle by his act of closing the door of a van and was sentenced to six-weeks’ imprisonment. I represented him with the assistance of our students, and succeeded in overturning his conviction before the Court of Final Appeal.

Please visit the Clinical Legal Education Programme website (http://www.law.hku.hk/cle/) for more information.

Becoming a Volunteer

Chong Yiu Kwong, Senior Teaching Fellow The Education University of Hong Kong

A Senior Counsel once said, it is not too late to serve the community after excelling in the profession. This statement is true but does not apply to me. I was not a student with outstanding grades. It was a pain to cope with professional examinations. At that time, I thought I should give back to the community if I pass. Luckily, I graduated. Over the years, I reminded myself, it is an honour to join this respectable profession and that I should do a little more.

Those who are more capable can help more people, just like those who are more wealthy can donate more money. The problem is that if you donate only when you become very wealthy, you may always think that you are not really wealthy enough to help others. It is understandable to cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth, but the poor helping each other is even more valuable. To turn volunteer work into a habit and a part of life is all about the mentality of regarding it as a matter of course and something that should be done.

Therefore, whether you consider yourself outstanding or not good enough, seniority does not count in volunteer work. I hope fellow professionals participate more in volunteer work and leverage their strengths to help others.

Pauline Wong, Sole Proprietor Pauline Wong & Co., Solicitors

I am grateful that I am able to contribute to society in both a personal capacity as well as on a professional level. I greatly enjoy visiting community centres, raising funds for charities and participating in community events, as well as offering a legal perspective on matters to those in need.

My work has exposed me to individuals who have depended on drugs to their disadvantage, and I have always hoped to help these individuals by facilitating their treatment and rehabilitation. I regularly visit the Sister Aquinas Memorial Women’s Treatment Centre and Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre to talk to the drug abusers, to provide motivation to overcome their addiction. As Honorary Legal Advisor of The Society of Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers, I advise on projects with the aim of helping to provide opportunities and support for drug abusers. SARDA’s aim to free drug abusers from the oppression and dependency on drugs is one that is commendable, and one that I fully support. I am honoured to be in a position where I could help effect such change, and it is indeed one of my most memorable pro bono works.

As Principal of my firm, I strongly encourage an attitude to help those in need, even if they do not have the means to provide for the services required. I believe pro bono is not just a professional duty, but a responsibility as one who’s gained so much from society, to give back to those less fortunate in any way that we can. Even the most minimal positive effect that I can have on one’s life is something that I treasure, and I am truly touched by this recognition from the Law Society; I can only hope that I can continue to help in the future.