• Law Practice in Hong Kong

One of the popular ways to commence law practice in Hong Kong is by becoming a consultant. It is also known as being self-employed, freelance, or contract. However, the practice is new to many lawyers, even though it has always existed in other professions like accountancy, engineering, and IT.

The practice offers individuals more flexibility and control compared to the employment relationship. By networking with various lawyers, you will be on the way to becoming an emerging new breed and top. The Legal Practitioners Ordinance (Cap.159) and its subsidiary legislation is the legislation governing the legal profession in Hong Kong.

 

Hong Kong adopts a free trade policy that applies to both merchandise trade as well as trade in services. The government aims to achieve service liberalization, enabling legal practitioners to compete with their overseas counterparts on a level playing field.

Locally, the open regulatory regime for foreign lawyers also aligns seamlessly with the territory’s free Trade policy approach. The implementation of prudent economic policy within a stable and transparent legal environment has been the cornerstone of its continuing achievement in maintaining the world’s most open economy.

Hong Kong’s legal system is based on common law principles and statute that resembles the law of England and Wales. The legal profession is made up of solicitors and barristers. There are currently about 6,500 practicing Hong Kong solicitors with more than 700 firms.

The Organization of a Law Firm in Hong Kong:

1. Sole proprietorship

He/she is subject to unlimited liability for the debt of the firm.

 

2. Partnership

Every partner is personally liable for acts of other partners and all debts of the partnership.

Multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs) are not allowed in Hong Kong. Neither solicitors nor barristers can share their practice with other non-legal services. Alternative legal service providers are not common in Hong Kong.

There are few advice centers and pro bono units that are run by the government or universities:

  • Legal Information Centre
  • Tel-Law Scheme
  • Legal Advice Scheme
  • Duty Lawyer Scheme
  • Bar Free Legal Services Scheme
  • Legal Advice Scheme for unrepresented Litigants on Civil Procedures

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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 continuous 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 jurisdiction. A 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  • 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 are determined by the Bar Council.
  • All solicitors’ firms must be insured under the Solicitors Professional Indemnity Scheme.

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.

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.
  • 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 are determined by the Bar Council.
  • All solicitors’ firms must be insured under the Solicitors Professional Indemnity Scheme.

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.

Pupillage/training contract

After completing the 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. Barristers
    Barristers are self-employed independent legal practitioners who specialize 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.
  2. Solicitors
    Solicitors 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 of alleged professional misconduct, he/she will be punished by the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal.

The Law Society guides members on matters relating to the 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.

Conclusion

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.

Starting a Law Practice in Hong Kong FAQs

How can a foreigner practice law in Hong Kong?2020-12-30T03:04:34+00:00

To practice law in Hong Kong as a foreigner, one must complete a degree in law from an eligible institution and complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) in one of the recognized universities in Hong Kong/ complete the PCLL conversion program. 

A foreign lawyer who the required level of post-admission experience in law can take the Barristers Qualification Examination to qualify as a lawyer. One should also apply to the Law society for registration at an international law firm or convert the firm to a Hong Kong law firm.  

What is PCLL?2020-12-30T03:06:07+00:00

The Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) is a Hong Kong professional legal qualification programme (one-year full-time or two-year part-time) that authorizes those who completed the program to move along to legal training before being eligible to practice as either a solicitor or a barrister in Hong Kong.  

What are the main laws in Hong Kong?2020-12-30T03:06:22+00:00
  1. Criminal law
  2. Civil laws
  3. Statutory law
  4. International law
What are the categories of lawyers in Hong Kong?2020-12-30T03:06:50+00:00
  1. Barristers
  2. Solicitors

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