Three women among eight new senior counsel

Latest members, all mothers, make a contrast with trend in Britain, where fewer women are being appointed to the top rank of barristers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 8:07am

Three more women have become senior counsel, joining the top rank of barristers.

The elevations of Yvonne Cheng Wai-sum, Audrey Campbell-Moffat and Roxanne Ismail reduce the sex ratio within the male-dominated circle to below seven to one.

The trio were among eight barristers raised yesterday to senior counsel - the largest number in a single year since 1990.

All three were mothers, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li noted.

Cheng, at age 39 the youngest of the eight, is married to Eugene Fung Ting-sek SC, who took silk - as the elevation to senior counsel is known - a year before her.

That made them "apparently the first married couple of senior counsel in the legal history of Hong Kong", Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said.

Yuen went on to disclose a little secret of hers. "Yvonne has a keen interest in Facebook games, especially the one called Words With Friends, which is a game similar to Scrabble," he told the admission ceremony.

"Yvonne's command of the English language is so good that she often beats one of our Court of Appeal judges."

He called Cheng "a well-known, high-power civil practitioner", Campbell-Moffat a "household name in the criminal bar", and Ismail a "well-known company law specialist".

The latest additions make the city's "Inner Bar" home to 12 women and 82 men.

"[This] is in sharp contrast to the latest situation in the UK where, as a recent article published in The Guardian pointed out, there has been a significant fall in the number of female barristers appointed Queen's Counsel," Yuen said. Queen's Counsel is the equivalent rank in some other common-law jurisdictions. Before the handover, it was the top rank for barristers in Hong Kong too.

The chief justice expressed worries over the changing values of the legal profession.

"Through the passage of many years and the numerous developments to make the legal profession more 'marketable', the 'honourable' part of the profession has at times - and I hope really no more frequently than this - been lost sight of," Ma said.

"An important part of the honour here is to treat the legal profession as a profession and not primarily as a business."

He urged the senior counsel to take up legal-aid cases at least once a year, and warned them against disliking less pleasant or decent clients.

The other new members are Paul Lam Ting-kwok, Wesley Wong Wai-chung, Simon Tam Man-fai, Dr William Wong Ming-fung and Mark Strachen. Wesley Wong and Tam serve in the Justice Department.