Local lawyers need to sharpen skills ahead of accession, says expert

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2001, 12:00am

Hong Kong lawyers would need to brush up on certain skills in order to deal with China's entry to the World Trade Organisation, a former Law Society chairman said yesterday.

Anthony Chow Wing-kin, now chairman of the society's WTO committee, said Hong Kong lawyers had until now focused mainly on conveyancing. As a result, they had relied on their foreign counterparts in the SAR to deal with specialised cases.

'At the moment, Hong Kong lawyers lack the expertise needed to cope with the WTO challenge,' Mr Chow said. 'For the past 20 years, overseas lawyers have been using Hong Kong as a base to get ready for the WTO.

'But local lawyers, on the other hand, have concentrated on our one big client - the property market.'

He suggested that Hong Kong lawyers improve their fields of expertise by teaming up with mainland law firms.

He said local lawyers needed to concentrate on areas of intellectual property, anti-dumping and corporate finance law.

At present, only 12 per cent of the 634 local law firms are capable of offering services at an international level. The ones that can are also mostly foreign-owned, Mr Chow said.

He was speaking at the Conference on China's Accession to World Trade Organisation Implications for Legal Education and Training in Hong Kong yesterday.

Another panel speaker, Bar Association chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, said Hong Kong firms should form partnerships with mainland firms, which not only have strong local networks but also sound foreign contacts.

Professor Wu Zhipan of Peking University's School of Law said, however, that Hong Kong could in return play a major role in assisting mainland lawyers with their proficiency in English.