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  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 6:47am
NewsHong Kong

Top Hong Kong judge refuses to let solicitors wear wigs in higher courts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 11:23am


  • Yes: 45%
  • No: 55%
26 Apr 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 293

It's a ruling that may leave some solicitors tearing their hair out.

The city's top judge has refused their request to be allowed to wear wigs - historically a symbol of power and the preserve of judges and barristers - when they represent clients in higher courts.

Earlier this year the Law Society, which has more than 8,000 solicitors as members, asked Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li to allow them to don the horsehair apparel after they won approval to speak on behalf of clients in hearings in the High Court and Court of Final Appeal, alongside barristers.

They argued that the wearing of wigs was essential in helping to ensure justice is done, as a difference in appearance could influence the perception of jurors during criminal trials.

If wigs were to be worn by solicitors in court, given the court robes worn by solicitors, there is a potential for confusion in that, in appearance, there would be little visible difference between Solicitor Advocates and Senior Counsel

But the Bar Association, which represents more than 1,100 barristers, disagreed, saying the public would be confused about the differences between the two sides of the legal profession if they both wore wigs - a view the judiciary apparently shares.

In a written reply to the Post yesterday, the judiciary said it found no evidence that differences in court dress may give rise to solicitors being seen "in a negative light". It stressed there are "obvious differences" between barristers and solicitors, one of which is court dress.

"If wigs were to be worn by solicitors in court, given the court robes worn by solicitors, there is a potential for confusion in that, in appearance, there would be little visible difference between Solicitor Advocates and Senior Counsel," the judiciary wrote.

So far, 15 solicitors have been granted the right to represent their clients in open court in the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal and Court of Final Appeal.

Stephen Hung Wan-shun, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law and procedure panel, expressed disappointment at the decision but said they would not pursue the issue further.


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This article is now closed to comments

The Law Society's argument is that wearing a wig is essential to ensure justice is done? Does it magically impart to the wearer a mind of legal brilliance? How stupid. It is ridiculous that solicitors should want to emulate barristers in a day and age when the wig, which is hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, unhygienic AND expensive, should be abandoned altogether.
One suspects the real motive is snobbery by solicitors who want to feel important.
I believe in equal opportunity for all for the qualified. Unfortunately it is unattainable. The stratification of law practitioners come out of a stratified training – the A and the B training. Hence stratified qualification to justify unequal opportunity. Let me suggest that all law practitioners should go through the same training. What they practice – in general or specialized area is up to individual including specialized in just property stamp duty etc. Here, the society may reexamine how people are best served by law practitioners in Hong Kong – more accessible physically and financially.
The sensible solution is surely to get rid of wigs for judges and barristers. And gowns. Perhaps we can get a local designer to come up with a uniform for them.
The distinction between barristers and solicitors is antiquated and remains in only a small handful of jurisdictions. This distinction, along with the accompanying court dress, inherently leads to the idea of class separation and inequality which has no place in a modern metropolis such as Hong Kong. Furthermore, given that equality is a key pillar of justice, any semblance of inequality, whether perceived or actual, must be vigorously combated.
Therefore, it is in the public interest to expeditiously integrate barristers and solicitors into one profession, and to eliminate or simplify court dress to the point where wigs and fancy regalia are no longer required.
Carioca no Coracao
this is stupid. how many countries' lawyers wear wigs now? like hkg is still under british colonial rule after the same people insisted to pirate/smuggle narcos into china...
Again it is a British culture in preference to stratify society that law practitioners are divided into barrister and solicitor. So the logic then educate them differently and allowable area of work differently. With that, stratification in power and prestige and income can be had. If suddenly Hong Kong court allows some solicitors to act as barristers but at the same time will limit their function as one, it is a case of weak logic or indeed fairness not equally served to the solicitors and their clients.
Get the logic right, or get rid of the difference and train all law practitioners alike. I prefer the latter so to lessen the stratification of society. Hong Kong can be a place of rule of law without to have different dress code to achieve it in the court of law.
By the way, one’s prestige, power and income should be earned through one’s practice and not how solely where and how you are trained.
Here is my suggestion to Hong Kong solicitors. Forget about that silly wig. Instead, wear a yarmulke next time when you show up in court.
If the presiding magistrate complains about your headgear, take your anti-Semitism complaint to the US House of Representatives or to the UN for violation of human rights by Hong Kong courts.
Why not? Martin Lee wears one. He comes crying to the US Congress when he doesn't have his way in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, he is barking up the wrong tree.
The US only cares about Jewish Lebensraum in Palestine. The yarmulke is a symbol of Jewish political power. On the skullcap issue, I guarantee our solicitors will get at least 75% support from US politicians.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, our solicitors could leverage this yarmulke ploy as a bargaining chip, which might produce what they have longed for, the right to wear a colored wig if not a black one. His Honour Geoffrey Ma could no longer have the excuse of confusing a solicitor with a barrister.
Indeed, a blonde wig over the head of a pretty woman solicitor might just tip the scale in closely contested cases presided by dirty old man judges.
To be honest, most if not all Barristers that wear those awful looking wigs look pretty stupid to start off with.......it is part of history that we can do without.........The Barristers just wants this last piece of horsesheet on their head to make them feel a bit more upper-class........No Big deal......means nothing in the real world.


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