Hong Kong has been home to the most liberalised legal market in Asia. However newly proposed rules may dictate that foreign qualified lawyers could only offer legal advice in cases related to the jurisdictions they were registered in. Concerns have been raised about what this could mean for the city’s global reputation as a legal hub. Hong Kong law firms would also have to employ two local lawyers for one foreign lawyer, up from a ratio of one-to-one.
The purpose of the proposed amendments is to ensure that foreign lawyers (i.e. lawyers not admitted as Hong Kong solicitors) should only provide legal services in relation to the law of jurisdiction(s) in which they are qualified and those jurisdiction(s) should be stated on their registration certificates. According to the Law Society, it is in the public interest that only competent, qualified and admitted persons should practise Hong Kong law in Hong Kong (while accepting that foreign lawyers can conduct arbitrations seated in Hong Kong).
The public consultation of the proposed changes closed 31 December 2018, and a formal report and announcement is expected to be release in the coming months.