TO many of Hongkong's established and successful barristers, nurtured in the tradition of a divided legal profession, the Law Society's proposal for a system in which all lawyers have equal right of advocacy will be anathema. It would deprive the Bar of its lucrative monopoly of the High Court and Court of Appeal, and will be resisted as an attempt by upstart solicitors to muscle in on their territory. Opponents will argue that the present system has worked well in the past, and should not be tampered with, especially so close to 1997. Barristers will argue that they do not deprive solicitors of work since clients must go to a solicitor before a case can be referred to them, the specialists. Arguably, such a system is still the best available if money is no object for the client. However, for the majority of the public, the price of hiring both a solicitor and a barrister is becoming prohibitive, and therefore a barrier to justice. If, as the Law Society claims, its proposals can make legal fees more affordable, then they merit serious consideration. By dismantling the restrictive practices that separate solicitors and barristers, clients would not need to pay so much. The move comes a day after the Attorney-General, Mr Jeremy Mathews, warned at the opening of the Legal Year that lawyers are in danger of pricing themselves out of the reach of the ordinary client, so the timing of the proposal is good. However, people in a money-driven society like Hongkong are well aware that quality does not come cheaply, and that the highest level of expertise and skill commands a premium. Whatever terminology is used to describe lawyers, the cream will still come to the top, and be skimmed off by those who can afford it. A name change alone will not put many solicitors on a par with their better qualified brothers (and sisters) of the Bar, but they can try. Brinkmanship in the Gulf WITH barely a week to go before President George Bush vacates the White House in favour of Mr Bill Clinton, Iraq appears to be testing the resolve of both the United States and the United Nations. After threatening the security of Allied aircraft in the ''no-fly'' zone, Iraq is now defying UN instructions by making repeated incursions into Kuwaiti territory to seize weapons and material left behind after the Gulf War. Mr Clinton's response has been commendably clear: Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will find him no less implacable an enemy than Mr Bush. The United Nations has been more equivocal. Accusing Iraq of repeated violations of the Gulf War cease-fire resolutions, it warned of ''serious consequences that will flow from continued defiance.'' Yet it also said it would try to persuade Baghdad to relent before considering any concrete action. Since the weapons - including Chinese-made Silkworm missiles - have already been spirited away to Iraq, the Security Council has been reduced, rather lamely, to demanding the arms be returned. Saddam, meanwhile, continues to claim sovereignty over Kuwait, and Central Intelligence Agency reports say Iraq is still moving anti-aircraft missile batteries around its US, French and British-patrolled no-fly zones in an effort to confuse the allies, and is refusing to allow UN officials to fly over its territory. The Security Council should respond with vigour, not waffle. The organisation's prestige is already under threat from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, who kidnap UN soldiers with impunity, and from Serb forces in Sarajevo, who can murder a Bosnian Deputy Premier while he is travelling under UN guard. The UN cannot now allow Saddam to join the Serbs in thumbing his nose at its authority. This Friday will be the second anniversary of the start of the Gulf War. No one wants a repetition, but Saddam should not be led to believe that the UN is no longer prepared to use force.