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Working as a Lawyer in Hong Kong

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    2

    Question Working as a Lawyer in Hong Kong

    Hi there,

    I have two main questions:

    1. What would be the best route to be a lawyer in HK?

    I have an LLB from New Zealand (common law) and am a new graduate with 0 PQE.

    So far I've come across three different routes (please feel free to correct me):
    1. Work as a foreign lawyer, albeit with limited practice ability.
    2. Sit the PCLL.
    3. Sit the OLQE.

    I am unfamiliar with the nitty gritty of options 2 and 3. Either way, 2 and 3 seem to be more tedious than option 1.

    2.Would having Hong Kong Residency make any difference?


    Much appreciated,
    E.


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Posts
    1,746

    If you have fewer than two years of experience, I think even if you register as a foreign lawyer you need a supervising lawyer to sign off on your work, making you less marketable. I think the overseas lawyer qualifying exam also requires two years in your home country...so likely more opportunities if do two years in the home jurisdiction first...but, of course, if you can get an offer in HK as a foreign lawyer, then do that and, I guess, PCLL (don't know anyone who did it that way, only know people who did overseas lawyer qualification). There are PCLL courses at night (takes two years) so you can work and do PCLL at night...


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    861

    With 0 PQE your only option is try to get accepted in PCLL. Its competitive and if you get in, its like winning the lottery.

    Do you have any Chinese skills? You might get a paralegal role, but thats a waste of your degree.

    OLQE not an option for you.

    Otherwise stay in NZ and get 3 years exp then come back and try as a foreign lawyer.

    traineeinvestor and spode like this.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    698

    What big_panda said.

    Without wanting to discourage you, without either a few years relevant experience or local admission your chances of securing work with a law firm in Hong Kong are quite low (even with Chinese language skills).

    That said, it costs you very little to send your CV around to as many firms as possible.

    Depending on your personal circumstances (whether you need to be in Hong Kong and your visa situation), if you are serious about building a career in law, your options could include:

    1. return to/stay in New Zealand and get at least years experience under your belt before coming back to Hong Kong

    2. doing a postgrad law degree and apply for summer placements during the university holidays - that's probably the best route to getting an offer of articles (which would be conditional on doing the PCLL). It's still a highly competitive process


  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    2

    Thank you everyone for your prompt responses, appreciate the honesty.

    In response to big_panda, I do have Chinese language skills (mandarin) as my other degree is in Chinese andI have studied abroad in Taiwan and Mainland China.

    Theoretically, if I were to receive a role as a foreign lawyer in a local firm for two years, would that count towards the "experience" requirement under the OLQE? Leaving the possibility of another route towards becoming a qualified lawyer in HK.

    I have a few other questions about the PCLL for those who are familiar with it.

    1. In terms of PCLL being like the lottery, is that in reference to it having the requirement for foreigners to have the equivalent of first class honours before even being able to be considered? (in addition to the fact that not all applicants are able to pass the PCLL)

    2. The PCLL page mentioned Conversion Exams.
    Does this mean an exam needs to be taken for every core subject mentioned in order to be eligible to apply?

    Much appreciated,


  6. #6

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    861
    Quote Originally Posted by bingaling
    Theoretically, if I were to receive a role as a foreign lawyer in a local firm for two years, would that count towards the "experience" requirement under the OLQE? Leaving the possibility of another route towards becoming a qualified lawyer in HK.
    Thing is, you're unlikely to find a role as a foreign lawyer in a "local firm". That would mean finding a lawyer with an active NZ practising certificate to act as your supervisor for 2 years. No one wants to hire a newbie as a foreign lawyer, when they can pay you as a paralegal. With your language skills, you probably have a good shot to be a paralegal.

    Telling you, do 2-3 years in a top NZ firm then come back and try your luck. HK is a tough market. Why the rush?

    As for PCLL, my understanding is there are more applicants then spots. First priority goes to the students that studied with the university for the LLB, then outsiders with high academics.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Posts
    43

    I would echo the sentiments about getting some experience in NZ / Oz / London and then having a go at the HK market.

    A combination of good overseas common law experience (I assume you're looking at finance or corporate?) in combination with your language skills will land you a much better job here and, just as importantly, give you skills and an exit option back overseas if and when you've had enough after a few years here.

    I actually do think that you would get a job somewhere in HK as it stands (as there is no shortage of sweatshops looking for underpaid paralegals who speak English and Mandarin). But I wouldn't recommend it for your sanity or future career progression. Bear in mind that your language abilities will be sought after by good firms outside HK as well.

    For context, I came over here at 3PQE and burnt out after 18 months of 80+ hour weeks in my first role. I'm in a more sustainable private practice role for the past two years (by HK standards, I've still had a couple of 250 billable hour months in that time) but I wouldn't have fancied my chances with a day less experience than I arrived here with in terms of being equipped for the challenges I've faced in that time.

    For all that, I still love living here and count moving here as a great decision professionally and personally, but I recommend thinking it through and coming here on your own terms (which you will be in a position to do once you have the experience).


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    12

    Can I add that the foreign qualified lawyer route is unlikely to be suitable for you, as you will only be permitted to practice New Zealand law, and I would imagine that it would be difficult to find a firm that would be willing to hire you given this restriction.

    Coolboy likes this.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    1,226

    contact the Law Society of Hong Kong and get a definitive answer
    The Law Society of Hong Kong
    Admissions and Registration