Practicing law as a foreigner in Hong Kong
Under section 50B (2) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance; a foreign lawyer who is not registered as an international lawyer with the Law Society can provide temporary international legal services.
He/she can only do so from within a registered foreign law firm or a Hong Kong law firm for a period not exceeding three continues months. They cannot advise on Hong Kong law or represent clients in the Hong Kong courts.
They can practice the law of the jurisdiction in which they are qualified, but not practice Hong Kong law. Hong Kong law firms can employ registered foreign lawyers as employees, but they cannot admit that international lawyers are partners of the firm.
An overseas lawyer may apply for admission as a solicitor, after completing the Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination. They must possess at least two years of post-admission experience or five years’ experience from a non-common law jurisdictionA foreign law firm can employ Hong Kong qualified solicitors who do not hold a practicing certificate as employees. However, they cannot admit Hong Kong qualified solicitors as partners of the firm.
The name of a foreign law firm should consist solely of the name(s) of its principal(s), but it can also use the name of a predecessor or former partner. If the firm is a branch of an overseas firm, its name can be used.
Below are two examples of how a foreigner can practice in Hong Kong:
- Apply to the Law society for registration at an international law firm
Once registered, it can form an Association with a Hong Kong law firm and apply to register the Associating with the Law Society. They can then share fees, profits, premises, and employees between them.
- Convert to a Hong Kong law firm
It can convert to a Hong Kong law firm and continue using its parent office name as the name of the converted firm, after practicing under the same name for three years before the conversion.
Requirements for Obtaining a Practicing Certificate/License
One must be a resident of Hong Kong or at least a resident for 7 years before admission.
One must have lived in Hong Kong for at least 3 months before the date of application for admission, or intend to reside in Hong Kong for at least 3 years after admission. Unsure of the necessary steps to take? Feel free to consult us at Paul Hype Page for a professional opinion. Our past clients have also engaged us for assistance in the relevant fields.
Barristers and solicitors must be members of the Bar Association and Law Society. Indemnity insurance is mandatory for practicing lawyers in Hong Kong.
All barristers must be insured under the Master Policy for professional indemnity insurance effected by the Bar Association. On behalf of its members, the rates and the amounts is determined the Bar Council.
All solicitors’ firms must be insured under the Solicitors Professional Indemnity Scheme.
After completing Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL), prospective barristers must undertake a pupillage for a year before they can practice and gain rights of audience in court.
The rights are obtained after six months from the time pupillage training is completed. Trainee solicitors must complete two years of training in a Hong Kong law firm before they can apply for admission as a solicitor.
To qualify for registration with the Law Society, foreign lawyers must have experience and be a person of good standing.
- Overseas lawyers
An overseas lawyer who has been in practice for at least three years can apply for admission to become a barrister after completing the Barristers Qualification Examination (BQE) and finishing six months of pupillage.
- In-house lawyers
In-house barristers and solicitors must renew their practicing certificates every year. An in-house solicitor who acts in litigation or conveyancing transactions must carry an unconditional practicing certificate.
This certificate does not bear any condition restricting him/her from practicing as a solicitor on their own account or in partnership.
A lawyer admitted in Hong Kong can advise on Hong Kong law, while a registered foreign lawyer in Hong Kong can only practice the law of their jurisdiction.
A lawyer is prohibited by the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law society from undertaking a matter unless they are competent to handle it.
Categories of lawyers in Hong Kong
They are self-employed independent legal practitioners who specializes in advocates and legal advisors.
They cannot directly take instructions from clients and can only provide legal services on instructions by solicitors or the Director of Legal Aid or the government.
They provide a range of legal advisory services such as advising on corporate transactions and IPOS, drafting commercial contracts, and advising on property transactions.
Disciplinary Tribunal for Lawyers
Should a barrister act in breach of the Bar Code of the Bar Council, he/she will be disciplined by the Barristers Disciplinary Tribunal.
Professional misconduct includes breaching any of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, Practice Directions, or circulars issued by the Law Society, principles of the Solicitors’ Guide, and the rules, principles, and guidelines governing professional conduct.
If found guilty for the above, the punishment includes striking-off, suspension, and imposing a fine of up to HKD500, 000.
Should a solicitor, a registered foreign lawyer, trainee solicitors, or an employee of a solicitor be found guilty for alleged professional misconduct, he/she will be punished by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The Law Society guides members on matters relating to Legal Practitioners Ordinance (cap. 159), and it is a subsidiary legislation, the Law Society’s Practice Direction, and the Conduct Guide. The Law Society takes seriously any breach of the standards of precise supervision and management.
With the strict law regulations in Hong Kong, one should consult a professional service provider like Paul Hype Page. We will provide you with the relevant knowledge and law in-sights with our extensive experience in the field over the last 12 years