By Ee Vi Lim, First Year LLB Student, Freedom Law Clinic Case Worker
As a child, I was amused by the idea of finding something by surprise in a pile of soil or sand. I guess this explorer mindset have not left me as it was rekindled when I ventured on the journey with Freedom Law Clinic (FLC). This time, it is not to find a bottle or a seashell but to find a piece, or fact, that may or may not hold the power of overturning a convict’s life. As I shared in my previous blog post, access to justice comes at a hefty price. Hence, the search that FLC is putting us on is one that gives an actual human being the opportunity to be righted, if needs be.
That said, with folders and folders of evidence, I find myself in a sandbox that is larger than anything that I have seen before. The student caseworkers and I were tasked to source evidence against a particular conviction for a serious criminal case. Honestly, the hardest part is to find a way to start because initially, I was like a wanderer, floating by the stack of papers in search of a direction. As a Law student, I have the habit of going into a legal judgement to search for answers. Having been trained to look for the binding ratio decidendi, this training which requires me to question and to doubt the judgement proves to be something unique.
In an archetypal detective movie, one would imagine an office with sheets of paper evidence lying around the table, waiting to be picked up by the eagle-eyed detective for scrutiny. My case was similar, but slightly modernised. I found myself sitting in front of a multi-tabbed window cramped on a multi-window screen as I try to mentally piece everything together. I can remember the one time when I had my eye on two pieces of evidence that didn’t seem to click in my head. Initially, I thought it was just because I myself couldn’t comprehend it. It was not until the supervision session with my lawyer mentor that I came to appreciate that if something seems to be inconsistent, it could be the case that it actually is.
If I could only say one thing that draws Freedom Law Clinic apart, it would have to be how committed it is to developing young caseworkers like us. From the comprehensive e-learning resources to the weekly touch points with an actual criminal lawyer, I am thankful to have grown to be more confident in my own legal analysis. For a novice caseworker like me, it is not easy to discern whether I am being merely confused or I have managed to spot significant incoherence in the facts. Over the weeks of feedback, the line between the two seems to become clearer. Thinking back to the early days of my Law degree, digesting case facts could be quite overwhelming but because of FLC, I can now see facts in chronological sequences, and map out the web of relationships between parties. The impact of this programme on me, and for the other participants alike, is something that we can carry with us wherever we go – whether it is a mock trial competition in university or fighting for justice in important cases down the road. I was told that in Freedom Law Clinic, they pioneer legal education that changes the world; now that I have experienced it for myself, I know that it is true.
When I started out on this journey, in search for a treasure, I did not expect that I would walk out of it finding that the most valuable learnings are ingrained in myself.