Hong Kong lawyers are in confusion over the future of scale fees after a pre-handover legislative council meeting described as “a shambles”.
Lawyers downed tools for three days of celebrations to mark the handover of the colony to China, but there is widespread unease about the legal profession's future.
The scale fees system generates a large amount of income for lawyers on the island which had become known as a developers' paradise.
Last week, Hong Kong's new legislative council passed a law to regulate the profession. The legislation in question renamed Queen's Counsel as Senior Counsel and threw out the proposals in favour of multidisciplinary practices.
However, it was unclear just how the new Bill would actually affect scale fees, and there were widespread fears that they may now be illegal. Even the Hong Kong Law Society did not know how to interpret amendments to the Legal Services (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill, which went through the Legislative Council last week in a 10-hour marathon debate.
Patrick Moss, Secretary General of the Law Society, explained that it would have to scrutinise videos of the debate in order to determine exactly what had happened.
“We are still not certain what was decided,” he said. “It was a total shambles in the Legislative Council. Half the delegates did not know what was being debated and amendments were still being made on the day.”