Hong Kong will seek further concessions under a free-trade deal with the mainland for local lawyers seeking opportunities across the border, in an attempt to expand the market for legal services. Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie is asking the Ministry of Justice in Beijing to hold the annual State Judicial Examination in Hong Kong next year and to announce the syllabus and the date of the exam at least six months beforehand. This year's exam was held in Shenzhen in September, with the announcement being made just three months earlier. Miss Leung said, 'One Hong Kong person sitting the exam couldn't find the venue, ended up being 30 minutes late and so was not allowed to take the exam.' She said the Ministry of Justice would consider disclosing the curriculum six to nine months before the examination date to give Hong Kong candidates more time to study. A pass in the examination provides a professional legal qualification, which allows the holder to handle non-litigation matters with a mainland law firm after completing a year of practical training across the border. Under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa), the free-trade agreement between Hong Kong and the mainland that took effect on January 1 this year, 45 Hong Kong law firms have set up 57 representative offices on the mainland so far. This is more than double the 25 offices established there by Hong Kong firms in 2001, Miss Leung said. She added that Hong Kong lawyers no longer had to satisfy any residency requirements for representative offices in Shenzhen and Guangzhou under Cepa. Hong Kong law firms can also team up with mainland practices in the form of contract-based associations but Hong Kong lawyers working for these associations cannot handle matters of mainland law. Three Hong Kong firms have formed such associations on the mainland - Woo, Kwan, Lee & Lo in Beijing, Fred Kan & Company in Tianjin and So Keung Yip & Sin in Chongqing . 'Smaller law firms may have more difficulty landing large projects so these associations can help them by allowing resources to be shared,' Miss Leung said. 'If we didn't have Cepa, it would be like Hong Kong losing its legal services industry to China.'