Many graduates cannot practise law in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:06am


I am writing about a matter of public importance, which is also an issue of personal unease.

In Hong Kong, the only avenue to enter into the legal profession is through obtaining a PCLL (postgraduate certificate in laws).

There are only a limited number of places available in universities each year, and they are filled by students from Hong Kong and abroad. Therefore, many students who do well in their LLB (bachelor of laws) are prevented from entering the legal profession.

I became aware of this because my daughter, who obtained an LLB (upper second class honours), is facing this problem. Many law graduates from various institutions who obtain very good exam results and, by any objective standards, would have qualified to study for a PCLL, are held back due to the limited places available.

The number of PCLL places available is not based on the capacity of the students to enter the legal profession. Students are admitted until the very limited number of seats is filled; others are not able to qualify.

Students do not know the marks required to enter the PCLL programme as they change annually, and they have apparently been rising in recent years.

A related issue is whether sufficient places should be provided to students who are Hong Kong residents with good LLB results prior to admitting students from other places.

Students aiming for other professions, such as medicine, engineering, architecture and accountancy, don't face this problem. Law students do, due to the limited number of places for PCLL.

When the university authorities in Hong Kong recruit students for legal studies, they are fully aware that a significant number of those students will not be accepted for PCLL. Admitting many students for professional studies while the conditions do not exist for the pursuit of that profession is a serious issue, both in terms of the responsibility of the university authorities, as well as the public authorities that set or support such policies in Hong Kong.

The lack of sufficient places is simply a problem of administration.

The simple solution is to increase the number of places available, which necessarily would involve policy changes and educational funding priorities.

In some places, such as the UK and Australia, this is achieved by having more institutions provide the required courses or the current institutions offering more places.

Basil Fernando, Tai Wai