The Law and You: How Death Got Me Reflecting
I have a passion for Law. I have a special interest in community law, including but not limited to family, employment, trust, inheritance and succession and also mental health and mental care related laws. I believe in the power of relationships to drive community living. I believe that laws and relationships are interrelated. Not in the “laws of attraction” sense but how law is the living glue that binds society together and speaks to the triumphs and struggles of our daily lives. Whenever a crime is committed, it reflects broken relationships within our society. Similarly, the smooth functioning of our working and recreational lives are a result of laws that set the framework for our daily interactions.
As such, Law is not the exclusive domain of lawyers. My starting point is that our appreciation of the Law is a shared asset of our society. Law is the social glue that binds all members of our society together. This belief was also the reason why I accepted an invitation this year to teach an entry-level module titled “The Law and You” as an adjunct lecturer at SUSS (Singapore University of Social Sciences) also known as Singapore’s Third Law school. Designed for the layman, the purpose is to help the students develop a basic understanding of legal principles and concepts and know how to apply them, sensibly, in their daily lives and identity the right moments to seek professional advice.
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My starting point is that the law, and understanding of the law, should be a shared asset. We are all bound by it, and all rely on its proper and just functioning to underpin the fundamentals of our daily lives. Having a basic knowledge and understanding of the law will help society figure out what are their rights and obligations, be well-informed in making better decisions. A population with legal literacy will contribute immensely to the overall welfare of the society.
In our current political, social and legal environment, I am extremely concerned with the fact that social workers, law enforcement agencies and the legal system need to work together. Law enforcement agencies and the legal system have to deal with clients under chemical dependency (with complex family dynamics and social inequality issues underpinning these cases) or broken families with issues of family violence, abuse and the involvement of minor children, or clients with mental disorders or slow developmental problems affecting mental development having brushes with the law but with a lack of appropriate sentencing options.
Lawyers often find ourselves in a social worker role with limited knowledge of how to work with such clients. Besides been poor pseudo social workers, we make poor counsellors as well. An interdisciplinary practice that involves the legal system, professional social workers and counsellors will ensure the concurrent pursuit of the dual goals of social and restorative justice – offering real benefit to all involved, from the micro to the mezzo to the macro levels of the justice system. The client is not purely a “piece of puzzle” in the justice system, but truly a part of the community.
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Because law affects real lives, we need to involve as many people as we can to find out what they like and dislike about the law, what problems have cropped up and how the law is a solution. The practice of law is very demanding and can be very solitary in nature. As such, we need to encourage more inclusive participation in decision-making between the various institutions and the clients.
One major area of the law that is of concern to the community will be issues of capacity and death, or specifically, surrounding death. Unlike a commercial dispute, the stakes are more than just monies, and often involve personal liberty. Conversations and comments with my fellow Avengers of Lossophy have challenged me to think deeply. And sometimes revise my conclusions on such issues.
I contribute to this blog in my personal belief, and in the wider context of world history, that “many small people who in many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” It is my hope that our collective individual and shared musings will be helpful to the reader. I welcome any constructive comments and contributions.
Featured Photo by Rob Girkin on Unsplash