THE only law course taught in Cantonese in Hongkong has attracted just over 10 per cent of students. Hongkong University's Use of Chinese in Law, designed to introduce future lawyers to the bilingual legal system has been running since 1986. Twenty of the 300 second and third-year students took the course last year when it became a credit-earning course. The number increased to 35 this year, representing only 11 per cent of all students eligible. The same number of students have enrolled in the forthcoming academic year. Senior law lecturer Mr Albert Chen Hung-yee, who initiated the course, dismissed the suggestion that it was unpopular. Mr Chen said that when compared with other optional subjects which might have as few as 10 students, the course was quite popular. Law Department head, Professor Raymond Wacks, disagreed with comments by Mr Thomas that there was little study of Hongkong laws in Cantonese. Professor Wacks said the Use of Chinese in Law was the only law course taught in Cantonese in Hongkong and was very successful. Mr Chen admitted that although most students were Chinese, not many of them had a good command of the written language - a hindrance to taking the course. ''They have to do their assignments and take the examination in Chinese. If their Chinese is not good, it is very difficult for them to take this course,'' he said. Professor Wacks said some students preferred to use English. He urged the Government to allow the university to extend the undergraduate course in law from three years to four years so the university could improve students' fundamental knowledge, including proficiency in language. A third-year student, Mr Wong Chi-man, said the Use of Chinese in Law course was a low priority. ''I think I can pick it up during practice, since most of the time, we will be talking to clients in Chinese,'' Mr Wong said. A first-year student, Mr Clifton Wong Chak-lau, said he would not choose the Use of Chinese in Law as his second-year subject, but would consider taking it in his final year. Professor Wacks said it was particularly important for people involved in criminal cases to be briefed in their own language so they would know exactly what the charges were. Mr Chen said the course aimed to teach students basic legal vocabulary in Chinese so that they could give good advice to clients in their own language. ''They are talking to clients in Chinese now, but it is essential for practitioners to know the basic Chinese terms to communicate the legal concepts competently,'' Mr Chen said. Third-year student, Mr Alfred Chu Lap-yip, who completed the course last year felt it was important to know how to communicate legal concepts to clients. Although the Use of Chinese in Law has had a lukewarm response from students, an extraordinary number of students registered to learn about China's legal system. The Introduction to Chinese Law attracted 164 students this year, more than double the number for last year. The course, which is conducted in English, gives an overview of the present legal system and law in China. It has been on the syllabus for several years but only became popular this year. ''It is getting difficult for students to find jobs, so many will try to be as competitive as possible,'' Mr Chen said.