I opted to join the Legal Aid Clinic (LAC) to complete the compulsory legal aid duty as it involves matters I have interest and experience in. It did not feel like a duty I had to do just to cross another task off my “pupillage to-do list”. The days at LAC were opportunities to serve people and baby steps towards my intentions in the future - to lend my assistance to the LAC in any way possible as a practicing lawyer.

One day, I was given an opportunity to do just that- to serve.
We usually wrap up our days at the LAC around 4.45pm with our facilitator, Mr Jeevanathan, going through our interview sheets and giving us advice. We also share our experiences with everyone present and have a quick discussion. But that particular evening, a client walked in at 4.45pm. He was an old Chinese man who spoke very little Bahasa Malaysia and no English. He also had hearing difficulties and talked loudly as he could not hear himself. Luckily, some of my fellow pupil, friends as I would like to call them, at LAC could speak in one of the dialects and was able to communicate with him.

I waited for my friends to conduct the interview and it took longer than usual. It was close to 6pm when it ended and started storming. One of the LAC staff asked my friend and I to help the client to catch a cab for the client. I then asked what was going on.

The client had prepared a Will to leave his house behind to his eldest son. Unfortunately, the son cheated him to obtain ownership of the house while the client is still alive. He was very upset when he found out but the rest of his children advised him to let it go as he did intend for the son to have the house. However, he was not able to let it go and he came to LAC to seek assistance.

Unfortunately, not only does the matter fall outside the jurisdiction of the LAC, my friends who conducted the interview could not even advise him to lodge a police report as it could very well make matters worse for him. He was an 82 year old man, living with one of his daughters. He may lose whatever he has left if the children finds out he is still pursuing the matter. More so after a phone call with one of his daughters ended with her saying if her father was clever enough to get to LAC, he is clever enough to get home so she is not coming to pick him up.

That broke my heart a little. I decided I must help him to get home safely in that storm. I went downstairs with my friend and saw him with another friend of ours writing down questions on a book for him to read and reply as he could not hear her at all in that storm.

He was not sure where he lives but he wanted to go to a DAP’s office to lodge a complaint against his son. I tried calling the number on a card he gave me but it was no longer in service. I then asked my friend to get the number of his daughter whom he is living with. Luckily, the daughter picked up and was not furious that he came to us. She handed over the phone to her husband who asked me to get the client on the LRT so he can get off at Asia Jaya Station and it would be easier for him to pick the client up. I was thinking in my head, if it was troublesome for him to drive to Pasar Seni to pick his father in law up in that storm, what made him think it was easy for his 82 years old father in law to get on that LRT and get off at the right station when he can neither read in English and Bahasa and has hearing difficulties that he may miss the announcement as the LRT approaches the station? So I told myself, that’s not going to happen. I knew I was running late for my weekly badminton game but no way I’m leaving without making sure the client goes back to his family.

I asked my friend to convince him to get into my car and I will drive him to Asia Jaya Station where his son in law will pick him up. He was first rather afraid to go home as his daughter and son in law may scold him for coming to us. After much coaxing, he finally agreed to get into my car. My friend hopped in as well just in case we need a translator.

We waited for 20 minutes at the station. When the son in law arrived, we asked him not to scold the client as he was just an upset old man who was trying to seek help. My friend then got off at the same station to go home. I drove back with a huge sense of relief and satisfaction. I was relieved the client was safe with his family and satisfied that I managed to lend my assistance. I’m sure that my friends, Shu Min and Wen Tung, feel the same way. We made a difference that evening. At any time, one of us could have decided to leave as it was storming and we either wanted to go home or have other commitments. But we decided to stay and help.

That incident convinced me that legal aid duty is not just another thing we, pupils, do as part of our pupillage requirements. It opens our eyes to many things. It makes us question our beliefs and for some, it makes us want to do more.