The future of the entire legal system appeared to hang on a thread within weeks of the handover when three senior judges were asked to make a ruling which would have plunged the SAR into anarchy. It was not difficult to predict that their judgment would back the Government and the system by upholding the provisional legislature and the laws it had passed. But the decision, which has not been challenged, restored stability and enabled the wheels of justice to continue turning. It was a crucial moment in a make-or-break year for the legal system. Few spectators at January's opening to the 1997 legal year would have been able to state with confidence the direction in which the system was heading. The future was clouded with doubts. Chief Justice Yang Ti Liang had resigned to run for Chief Executive and his successor had not been announced. New leaders would also be needed for the High Court and the Department of Justice. The French Mission Building was being turned into the Court of Final Appeal. But the court had no judges and there was no procedure for lodging cases. There were doubts about the introduction of the Basic Law, and suggestions that chaos would reign with trials spanning the handover collapsing because of loopholes. It was not even known whether barristers would continue to wear wigs and gowns and call the judge 'My Lord'. The most important concerns were whether the Judiciary would remain independent and whether the common law system, seen as vital to Hong Kong's future, could survive the handover. As the next legal year approaches, many of the questions have been answered. The appointment of former executive councillor Andrew Li Kwok-nang as Chief Justice was seen as a positive move which would help ensure stability. This view has been supported with his selection of other judges, including top names from overseas for the Court of Final Appeal, which have been largely made on merit. Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi's selection as Chief Judge of the High Court was also welcomed and solicitor Elsie Leung Oi-sie has quickly settled into her role as head of the Department of Justice. There has been a slow start for the Court of Final Appeal, which had to wait until December for its first full hearing. But the judges can now begin building the international reputation which the top court needs. Confusion reigned in the first few days after the handover with some lawyers and judges unclear on the changes which had been made. The prosecution could no longer be called the Crown, there was no Attorney-General, the Supreme Court became the High Court and the High Court the Court of First Instance. But the wigs and gowns have remained, along with the major principles of the common law system. Even the sceptics have been pleasantly surprised by how little has changed. It is early days yet, but the omens are good.