Law Society mulls common exam
Patsy Moy and Adrian Wan
An overhaul of the examination system that allows law graduates to become qualified lawyers is being considered by the head of the Law Society.
Students currently have to complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) before they qualify as apprentice solicitors or barristers.
Last year, more than 600 graduates completed the PCLL, which is offered by law schools of the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University and City University.
There is another exam for lawyers who qualified abroad but want to practise in Hong Kong. That is the Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination (OLQE) set by the Law Society.
'Many places have one uniform qualifying exam,' said the Law Society's new president, Dieter Yih Lai-tak, adding that having two different qualifying exams was 'confusing'.
'However, one thing is certain - [PCLL and OLQE] all aim to ensure that entrants to the legal profession are properly equipped with the necessary legal knowledge and skills to perform tasks with the highest standards expected of the legal service providers of an international financial centre,' Yih wrote in the society's official journal Hong Kong Lawyer.
'Members and stakeholders have recently been raising a question with me: whether a common qualifying examination for solicitors is worth considering.'
Yih (pictured) stressed that having a new combined exam was his 'initial thought', and he planned to consult the three universities and the legal profession.
'Everything is just too early for now. We want to listen to the views of all stakeholders,' Yih told the South China Moring Post.
Yih denied his idea was triggered by shortcomings in the PCLL programme but admitted that a new exam involves students having to make an extra effort if they desire to become lawyers.
Professor Christopher Gane, dean of Chinese University's law faculty, would not comment on Yih's idea, but said 'only very able students are admitted to the PCLL'.
'Admission to our law programmes is highly competitive, and that quality is carried through into the PCLL,' Gane said.
'The profession is thus able to recruit from the PCLL graduates candidates who compare very favourably with their counterparts internationally.'
Gane said that all but one course in the PCLL was assessed by the Law Society and the Bar Association.
There were 453 applicants vying for the 150 places on Chinese University's PCLL 2011/12 course. Although the minimum admission requirement was a good lower second-class degree, in reality most entrants had higher grades, Gane said.
Of HKU's 330 law graduates last year, 79 per cent were admitted to its PCLL course. City University had 175 law graduates last year and its intake of PCLL students was 140.