Four solicitors in Hong Kong, including Allen & Overy’s (A&O) litigation consultant Kevin Kee, have been granted higher rights of audience by way of assessment.
Kee will be the second A&O lawyer to have obtained the rights to argue cases in the higher courts of Hong Kong. Last February, A&O’s Hong Kong partner Matthew Gearing was among the first group of 15 lawyers to have received higher rights (7 February 2013). Gearing is also one of the 100 newly promoted Queen’s Counsel in the UK this year (19 February 2014).
The other three lawyers joining Kee to become Hong Kong solicitor-advocates are: Ernst & Young in-house lawyer Regina Fan, who previously worked in A&O’s London office; Hau Pak Sun, partner of Hong Kong litigation boutique Charles Chu & Kenneth Sit; and sole practitioner Paul Kwong, who focuses on criminal cases.
They are the first group of lawyers to receive the higher rights by way of assessment, out of 32 applications made in September 2012.
According to the Higher Rights Assessment Board, a total of 122 applications were received in September 2012. Of those, 90 applicants sought higher rights by way of exemption with the remaining 32 doing so by way of assessment.
Several lawyers in Hong Kong have pointed out the rather low passing rate by way of assessment, which stands at 12.5 per cent, may discourage further applications. In comparison, the success rate by way of exemption is 16.6 per cent.
The move for Hong Kong to introduce solicitor-advocates comes following the enactment of the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2009. For lawyers interested in going down the route of assessment, they need to complete the training programmes jointly provided by Hong Kong’s Academy of Law and The University of Law in the UK. The assessments consist of two parts, a written example and a practical assessment.
It is understood that the assessment board accepted further applications in September 2013, but is yet to announce the results.