Growing the ranks of pro bono civil lawyers for migrant workers

December 24, 2015
Category: Our work

In August of 2015, JWB held the first continuing legal education workshop in Singapore focused on civil remedies for migrant worker victims of exploitation and human trafficking. The workshop marked our latest efforts to build the capacity of frontline practitioners in this field of work.

Aug Workshop 1
Participants working through the difficult legal issues posed by their fact patterns.

Our attendees included 40 Participants from multiple fields of practice, including fifteen locally licensed lawyers, over a dozen foreign qualified lawyers, as well as in-house counsel and representatives from government agencies.

A Hands-On Workshop

The workshop featured a hands-on curriculum that led participants through the issues they are likely to encounter in representing migrant workers who must bring their claims from abroad. A group of experienced practitioners  that included Tan Fang Qun (Deputy Director of the Ministry of Manpower), Ronald Wong of Rajah & Tan Singapore LLP, and Tan Cheow Hong from Beacon Law Corporation, launched the training with an overview of the relevant legal remedies available to migrant workers, and sharing their experiences in pursuing legal remedies.

Guided by experienced caseworkers from local NGOs Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E.), participants then tackled simulated client cases involving a domestic worker and a construction worker with outstanding legal claims. Drawn from actual cases, the simulation featured novel legal issues and difficult logistical considerations that commonly arise in attempting to bring civil claims for the exploitation, abuse, or injury that migrant workers might suffer. Issues discussed included whether an injury sustained while returning from work on a supervisor’s motorcycle was a workplace injury, and what the enforceable rate of pay is in a contract with multiple payment provisions.

Growing the pool of trained practitioners

Aug Workshop 2
Felicia Ong from Beacon Law Corporation leading a round-table discussion.

For the over 80% of the participants who were new to this field of work, the workshop gave them a sense of the real life issues that migrant workers face. Many of the participants have since become involved in cases, growing the pool of lawyers who can help workers bring claims from abroad.  We continue to match these participants to projects that make sense for their time, interest, abilities.

With more local lawyers, our capacity to connect victims with Singapore qualified-lawyers has expanded. Such partnerships are incredibly valuable in the fight to win just compensation for migrant worker victims.

The partners who made it possible

Sincere thanks to Herbert Smith Freehills for their generous support of our inaugural workshop, and to the enthusiastic participation from our attendees that made this event possible. We are also indebted to our co-hosts, Beacon Law Corporation and Sheila Hayre, Senior Lecturer, NUS Faculty of Law, without whom the workshop would not have been possible.