When legal fusion can work

THE rekindled debate on whether Hongkong's legal profession should be ''fused'' has descended to unhelpful sniping between solicitors and barristers.

The views I have seen expressed on both sides have been misleading because they speculate about the results of ''fusion'' without considering the evidence available from jurisdictions where a fused profession is the norm.

Where legal practitioners are admitted to practise as both solicitor and barrister they usually have identical training before beginning their careers as articled clerks in law firms.

As articled clerks and junior or restricted practice practitioners they get supervised hands-on experience with a variety of legal work.

Most jurisdictions with fused professions have developed an ''independent bar''. This happens naturally as the profession matures.

In such jurisdictions there are very few barristers without prior experience as solicitors or who are inexperienced advocates.

The public interest is very well served by that system because it tends to ensure that legal practitioners are competent advocates.

The profession is equally well served by the system because it tends to ensure that only practitioners who are respected by their peers as professionally competent advocates go to and remain at the independent bar.

The result has been that the independent bar is well respected.

It does away with pointless arguments about such matters as which branch of the profession is superior, in favour of a recognition that all are legal practitioners working in the branch of their profession to which they are best suited.