The legal profession in Hong Kong is divided into two distinct branches
— barristers and solicitors. Solicitors have limited rights of audience
before the courts whereas barristers have unlimited rights of audience
in all courts. Lawyers practising within one branch of the profession
are not, at the same time, allowed to practise within the other branch.
Hong Kong has more than 5 300 practising
solicitors and 650 local law firms, plus some 34 foreign law firms, 630
registered foreign lawyers and seven registered associations between foreign
law firms and local law firms in Hong Kong.
The Law Society is the governing body for solicitors
and foreign lawyers and foreign law firms. It has wide responsibilities
for maintaining professional and ethical standards and for considering
complaints against these legal professionals.
Around 380 solicitors are also notaries public, and
are members of the Hong Kong Society of Notaries, providing notarial service
to different sectors of the community.
Hong Kong has more than 840 practising barristers,
whose governing body is the Hong Kong Bar Association. The Code of Conduct
for the Bar of the HKSAR governs their conduct and etiquette.
In 2003, the Bar of the HKSAR was involved in many
events of legal importance to the public, the most notable one being the
discussion over Article 23 of the Basic Law. Apart from taking part in
forums and interviews organised by other institutions, the Bar in conjunction
with the University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong
organised a two-day open forum on Article 23. The forum was well attended
and broadcast world-wide through the Internet.
As in the past, the Bar in 2003 continued to be involved
actively in the legal education reform in Hong Kong through participation
in various boards of the University of Hong Kong and the City University
of Hong Kong. Further, through its Free Legal Service Scheme, the Bar
in 2003 also continued to provide free legal service to the public, with
While maintaining amicable relationship with international
legal institutions, the Bar in 2003 also strengthened its ties with lawyers'
associations in the Mainland. The signing of the Mainland/Hong Kong Closer
Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) in June 2003 has also provided
impetus to bring the Bar closer to the Mainland.