Legal adviser to Medical Council departs amid criticism of his earnings

Controversial legal adviser was said by medics to earn up to HK$5m a year for part-time role. His replacement will serve a limited term

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 5:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 10:34am

The part-time legal adviser to the Medical Council has resigned after serving for 10 years in the wake of concerns about his fees and performance - while his replacement has been given a fixed term of two years.

Charles Chan Chor-chak came under fire from the medical watchdog's members in August amid claims he was billing the council up to HK$5 million per year for his HK$1,900-per-hour services. Members of the council said he had "not lived up to their expectations".

Council members, who learned of the appointment of Edward Shum Ping-sang as Chan's replacement yesterday, said they had never heard of a legal adviser having a set term and thought the government, which is responsible for the appointment, may have imposed it in response to criticism of Chan.

Chan cited personal reasons for his decision to stand down, according to the announcement of Shum's appointment, which takes effect on Wednesday.

It remained unclear last night whether Chan would stand down from his role as legal adviser to the Dental Council and the Chiropractic Council. Like the Medical Council, the bodies have statutory responsibility for disciplinary matters relating to members of their profession.

Chan's fees fell under the spotlight after nine council members signed a petition in August asking the government to review his performance. They said his annual earnings were up to HK$5 million, equivalent to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's salary.

The council said last night that Shum would be paid HK$2,000 per hour for his work. The council did not respond to questions about whether Shum's contract could be renewed after the two-year term.

Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, who signed the petition, said the efficiency of the lawyer's work was more important than the hourly fee. He could not remember hearing of any previous adviser having restrictions on the length of their term.

"It's not about the amount of the rate, but the efficiency of your work," he said. "If he can finish what he's required to do in an hour, he must not prolong the process to four to five hours."

Shum said he was charging the council a "concessionary" rate, less than half what he billed for his private practice.

"It is, in part, a public service," he said. "I will accelerate the process of handling cases. I hope I can serve the council well."

Shum was admitted to the Bar in 1988 and specialises in general litigation, personal injury and public law. He has acted as a legal adviser to other statutory bodies.

"I welcome the new appointee," said Dr Tse Hung-hing, who also signed the August petition. "And I bid the former one a hearty farewell."

Chan could not be reached for comment.