THE LAWYER'S STORY I HAVE had 30 years' experience as a divorce lawyer. I was also a partner of a top firm in England. I came out to Hongkong because I was asked to fight a particular case. I won it and built up a reputation for myself. The best way of making a practice grow is to keep on winning cases - divorce law is no more competitive than any other part of the law. There is a tendency to be sympathetic to the female because, historically, the woman has always gone into court as the underdog. Of course, the whole scene is changing - there was a day when you gave up your seat on a bus for a woman but that practice has almost died out. Men and women go into the arena nowadays on more or less an equal basis. The first duty of a lawyer when consulted is to investigate the possibility of a reconciliation. We are not here to aggravate the problem, we are here to take the pain out of the case. At the end of the day if it has all come to an end there is little you can do but carry on with the action. If the lawyer is acting for the wife, he will be trying to get her what she needs for financial security. If he is acting for the husband, the lawyer has to make sure the husband does not pay more than he ought to. Yes, there are a lot of lawyers who run up costs, that happens in every field of law. But it is the duty of the lawyer to have regard for the client's financial position. It is not proper or sensible to pursue detailed inquiries into means but often a wife wants to know what her husband is worth. Often in Hongkong a wife will not know how much her husband is worth because he is in charge of the finances - it is not the practice to let on about this information. No, I would never use children as a weapon. We certainly don't do that in this practice. And we always do what we are told, after we have advised, otherwise we are in breach. In 99 out of 100 cases, both parties fail to be objective and let personal feelings intervene. A good lawyer, although I'm not saying that all lawyers in Hongkong are good, won't let it get out of control, spending unnecessary time or making the relationship between the two parties worse than it is. My practice does cases for nothing - as a firm we must do about 20 to 30 cases a year with people who are on legal aid certificates. Of course, I'm pretty much a top of the range lawyer at divorce so I mainly deal with cases where a lot of money is involved. I have never heard that lawyers are in cahoots with each other, the idea of drawing out the sessions so that they benefit financially is highly unprofessional. Lawyers are basically quite highly principled individuals. We have always had a bad reputation. Remember Shakespeare, he said: 'Kill all ofthe lawyers'. The trouble is, we are always around when there are problems - they come to us when they divorce and when they die. We are here to solve these problems. Pre-nuptial agreements have no weight in Hongkong because they oust the jurisdiction of the court, anything that does that is contrary to public policy. However, a pre-nuptial agreement can be taken into account by the judge and to that extent you cannotconceal them. Yes, my advice to people getting divorced would be to come to an agreement with your husband. It saves expense and if you are happy about what you negotiate it takes the ill-feeling out of the case. There is also the certainty element, it means you know what you will get. But, yes, that is an ideal and yes, I would be out of a job, but we do not live in an ideal world. My cases usually last anything from six months to two years, usually there is a lot of money involved with assets all over the world. The fees could be anything from $2 million to $10 million - the total on both sides.