Hong Kong lawyers have been promised clearer guidelines on their role in the mainland legal system by the State Council next month, Elsie Leung Oi-sie (right) said yesterday. Beijing announced last month that law firms from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan would be subject to separate rules from other foreign companies, which are banned from practising mainland law. Foreign firms can advise multi-national companies on doing business in China, but formal opinions and client representations in court are the domain of mainland lawyers. The announcement was welcomed by Hong Kong lawyers but sparked confusion over their exact role across the border and on what classified a local firm. It remained unclear, for example, whether Hong Kong lawyers could sit Ministry of Justice exams to obtain a certificate to practise. Miss Leung said yesterday the Government, the Law Society and the Bar Association were in discussions with the State Council on the regulations and hoped to have them ready by next month. 'The regulations for foreign lawyers' offices in China are clear, but Hong Kong is a special case . . . the new guidelines will clarify qualification requirements,' she said. 'Whether one would be required to register as an individual or a firm . . . whether other lawyers in the firm can also practise [if a lawyer has set up office] or they have to register individually - all these issues will need to be addressed.' Miss Leung was speaking at a fund-raising launch for Sowers Action, a Hong Kong group that aims to improve mainland rural education. About $2.8 million has been raised by 340 people who will walk to Guangzhou over the next five days.