Hong Kong Law Society will not change foreign lawyer rules

In July 2019, the Hong Kong Law Society (HKLS) published its decision not to pursue the controversial Proposed Legislative Amendments on Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms.

We strongly welcome this announcement.

The proposed amendments would require international firms practising in Hong Kong to hire two domestic lawyers for each foreign lawyer, double the current quota.

They would also have increased the time required for a firm to operate in Hong Kong before it was able to convert to a Hong Kong firm.

The proposals also mandated that lawyers from outside Hong Kong give legal advice only in cases involving the jurisdictions they are registered in rather than cases that merely involve overseas elements, as is currently the case.

We strongly advised against the introduction of these amendments, as these would have negatively affected our members in Hong Kong, the local legal profession and the standing of the Hong Kong as a leading international business and financial centre.

Since the proposals were announced, we've worked closely with our counterparts in Hong Kong and other stakeholders to raise awareness of these negative implications.

In her president’s message, Melissa Pang noted that “there could be unintended consequences that adversely affect the development of the legal profession and the legal services market in Hong Kong if such proposed amendments were made” if the proposals went ahead.

President Pang also wrote:

"The position of the [Hong Kong] Law Society on its support for Hong Kong’s open door policy has remained unchanged. The [Hong Kong] Law Society welcomes qualified talent from other jurisdictions, which enriches the diversity of the Hong Kong legal services market and the Law Society will continue to support the reputation and good standing of Hong Kong as an international legal services hub."

The HKLS has kept the proposed changes in relation to registration fees (The Foreign Lawyers Registration (Fees) Rules) subject to approval from the chief justice.

The HKLS will compile a guidance note reiterating that persons who are not qualified as Hong Kong legal practitioners must not practise Hong Kong law and setting out the legal consequences if they do so.

It will also produce guidance on what is regarded as 'competence' in cases where foreign lawyers do wish to practise Hong Kong law.

We'll continue to monitor developments and engage with relevant stakeholders.

Our president, Simon Davis will visit Hong Kong in November for the LAWASIA annual conference and will hold a member roundtable.

If you're interested in our work in Hong Kong, email asia@lawsociety.org.uk.

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