Hong Kong 2003
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The Legal System
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The Legal Profession

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 satisfactory results.

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.

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