Hitting the right notes for a cause

With their sharp minds and analytical skills, lawyers are known for their arguments in court.

Come May 6, however, a group of legal eagles will make music instead of court arguments, getting together for a charitable cause.

The "Just Sing" concert, organised for the first time by the pro bono arm of the Law Society of Singapore, will feature lawyers past and present including some who have made their name in the music scene.

They include jazz singer Rani Singam, a former prosecutor, singer-songwriter Jimmy Ye, musician and composer Chok Kerong, and rock-roots band Cheating Sons' Wang Renyi and Donovan Loh.

The set list for the 70-minute concert at Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay will include original creations and reimagined covers by U2, Adele and the Beatles.

The concert hopes to raise "as much funds as possible" to help with the administrative costs of running the Pro Bono Services Office (PBSO), such as court filing fees, said Mr Dinesh Dhillon, a partner at law firm Allen & Gledhill and chairman of the "Just Sing" committee.

The event will showcase some of the pro bono arm's previous work and a platform to encourage more lawyers to take up the cause, said Mr Dhillon, who is on the Law Society's executive committee.

Through video clips shown between songs at the concert, lawyers and PBSO's beneficiaries will talk about how the charity helped them.

"We want to create greater awareness of the difference that PBSO makes," said Mr Dhillon.

The PBSO is a charity under the Law Society. Established in 2007, it helps bring free legal assistance to disadvantaged groups, to ensure access to justice for all.

It runs free legal clinics for groups like migrant workers, organises talks and represents the poor who cannot afford a lawyer, among other services.

For instance, Mr Dhillon took up a case last November involving three newborns who were stateless after their Singaporean father abandoned them.

Their mother, a Chinese national, could not register the triplets' births here. He wrote to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, arguing their case. The babies received their Singapore citizenship four months later.

As Mr Chok put it: "It wasn't difficult to say yes (to the concert)."

Ms Singam, who sang Majulah Singapura at the National Day Parade three years ago, said: "It's very exciting, I get to pick the tunes I like and work with the people I like."

"It won't be a pure jazz show. It's going to be all the music I've grown up with, been influenced by or enjoyed," added Ms Singam, the show's production coordinator. She decided the set list with Mr Chok. The duo had worked together to produce Ms Singam's second album five years ago.

Describing the concert as "a confluence of (lawyers' and musicians') past and skills and our wishes for the community", Ms Singam said it is also about getting together for a worthy cause.

The concert's theme will be about second chances. "There's a strong message of hope and empowerment in the songs we picked," said Ms Singam, who declined to reveal more to keep the set list a surprise.

"No one will be left behind because (PBSO) wants to make justice accessible. Everyone has a chance to turn things around, and there are people around to help."

While it could be argued that well-paid lawyers could have just contributed directly to the operating costs of the pro bono office, instead of organising a concert to raise funds, it is worth highlighting that the event aims to achieve another goal: Raising awareness of the work the office does and encouraging more lawyers to join them.

On whether the lawyers are charging a fee to perform, Ms Singam said the concert is "low-bono... breaking even", which means the performers will not be making a profit from the one-night show.

"The point of the show is to promote volunteerism within the legal community," she added.


This article was first published on April 28, 2016.
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