GIVING Hongkong solicitors equal legal status with barristers could aggravate the backlog of court cases and pack the courts. Canadian lawyers practising in Hongkong refused to judge the proposal yesterday but said greater accessibility to legal services might backfire and over-burden the system. The Law Society has proposed a ''fusion'' between barristers and lawyers in a move which they claim would make legal services more efficient, just and affordable. However, Canadian lawyer Mr Chisholm Lyons said efforts to make the legal system more accessible in Ontario had lost momentum as the social welfare bill ballooned. Greed had turned ''the war against poverty'' into a rush for the courts in Canada, he said. A lot more people were going to court claiming separation entitlements and custody because legal action was virtually free. ''No-one pleads guilty anymore, everyone retains a lawyer so the system becomes clogged with appeals and defences,'' he said. ''What they conceded as an ideal concept to protect the innocent and those who couldn't afford the legal system turned into a bit of a nightmare,'' he said. The Hongkong Bar Association chairman, Miss Jacqueline Leong, QC, admitted that the solicitors' proposal could increase the backlog of cases in the territory's courts. She added that the existing system protected public access because of restrictions on barristers. ''Legal Aid follows the cab rank principle in which a barrister has to take a case if he is free regardless of whether it is attractive to him or he has a good chance to win it. ''The present system ensures the representative is independent and any solicitor can seek his help. His help is available to every client, without him being tied to a particular firm or partnership.'' Hongkong University law lecturer and chairman of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Mr Art McInniss, supported the proposal. ''The arguments put forward by the Law Society of Hongkong are by and large supported by the Canadian experience,'' he said. Mr McInniss said the profession had always been fused in Canadian provinces, except Quebec, but fusion of Canada's District and Superior or Supreme Court (the High Court equivalent) had improved public accessibility to legal services. Specialist knowledge was still available because Canadian lawyers had tended to restrict their practice to the work of either barristers or solicitors by choice, rather than being legally restricted in terms of the courts in which they could appear. Mr Dow Famulak, a qualified Canadian barrister and solicitor, said he had successfully operated a split practice in a fused system. ''Not everyone can do this, but where it is possible the client can benefit from continuity of service. It is a lot less frustrating and cost effective than being passed from one representative to another, and paying a solicitor to whisper to a barristerin court.'' Another Canadian lawyer, Mr Ng Ching-wo, said a fused system protected equal rights. ''Whether the players are minor or big ones, they have the right to legal action even if it does clog the legal system. If the accepted principle is equal access, then even if it costs society a lot of money to expand the courts and employ more judges society would be willing to pay the price,'' Mr Ng said. A spokesman for the Legal Department said yesterday the proposals went ''beyond merely the interests of the Law Society and the Bar Association, and should be debated among those interested in the development of the law''. The department would monitor reactions to the report closely because it proposed fundamental changes to the legal profession. A spokesman for the Judiciary said it would be ''inappropriate'' for the Chief Justice to express a view, because the issue was complex and the Bar Association and the Law Society would probably discuss the proposals.