Faculty Feature

Associate Professor Ruby Lee:
Power of Pro Bono


Associate Professor Ruby Lee ’85 was called to the bar in Singapore in 1986, and later obtained a Masters in Law from the London School of Economics in 1990. After several years of general practice, she joined an international group of companies where she remained until 2012. As the Director in-charge of legal matters, she headed and participated in many transactions that the group undertook, and served as a director and/or company secretary in many of the subsidiaries of the group, including public listed companies. Since joining NUS Law, she has been engaged in pro bono and clinical education. She has led a number of key projects, including projects involving increasing access to justice for families of persons with mental disabilities. She is the co-director of the newly launched Centre for Pro Bono & Clinical Legal Education, together with Associate Professor Lim Lei Theng ’92.

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What inspires you to focus on pro bono work?
 

That is an interesting question and I am ashamed to say that I had not thought about pro bono work until I joined the university. Being part of the Pro Bono office exposed me to the pro bono work the students do. One project leads to another and before I know it, I was hooked!

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What have been some of the highlights of your career?

Highlight of my previous life: I was involved in a deal to set up a joint venture to operate a medical evacuation company. Part of the business plan was to purchase a Lear Jet from USA. I had no idea how to purchase a plane, register the plane and transport the plane back to Singapore. I was actually surprised when the Lear Jet arrived without a hiccup in Singapore as everything relating to the purchase was new to me.

Highlight of my present life: The joy on a student's face when the student completes a pro bono project with me, and asks to do more. I am proud to say that I get to enjoy this very often.
 

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What are some of the most challenging factors in doing pro bono work in Singapore?

The lack of coordination between the voluntary organisations, volunteers, and government authorities.

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How can law students benefit from pro bono work experience?

Law students can benefit in many ways. They can learn lawyering skills when assisting qualified lawyers in live cases. They can learn the real concerns of the community when they conduct talks on community issues. However, they can only benefit if they are prepared to embrace the work and be open to the experience.
 

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What can be done to ensure that students continue to give back to the community with pro bono work after they graduate?

This is a hard one and I do not think one can ensure that all students will give back once they graduate. One can only hope that by showing them the joys of giving back while they are still in their carefree days would inspire some to continue. I am pleased that many of my students who have graduated do not hesitate whenever I reach out to them to assist in pro bono cases.  

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