Girling visit secures HK concessions

A whirlwind visit to Hong Kong by Law Society president Tony Girling has helped secure what the local law society is describing as a series of “pragmatic compromises” over proposals to end English solicitors' automatic requalification rights there.

The Hong Kong Law Society will proceed with its plans to scrap the English lawyers' exemption from having to take the Overseas Lawyers' Qualifications Examination (OLQE), but it has made some concessions following Girling's visit in April with Simmons & Simmons partner Colin Passmore, chair of the Law Society/Bar Council China Working Party.

The society will extend the deadline for application for a certificate of exemption from 30 June 1997 to 31 December 1997 and the subsequent deadline of admission is also pushed back a year to 31 December 1998.

There is also a discretionary exemption from part or all of the OLQE for lawyers from any jurisdiction who can prove they possess expertise which would be of benefit to Hong Kong in general or the local legal profession in particular.

Its precise wording is yet to be determined but sources close to the negotiations are “optimistic that it will benefit English solicitors”.

There is also a clause to protect any Hong Kong residents who embarked on training in England or Wales with a view to returning home to Hong Kong to practise.