The Secretary for Justice has rejected claims by the president of the Law Society that neither she nor her office had supported issues critical to the legal profession. 'I was very surprised by the president's remarks,' said Elsie Leung Oi-sie when questioned during a seminar yesterday on the mainland's Anti-Secession Law and cross-strait relations. Michael Lintern-Smith said he was unwilling to continue as head of the Law Society because of the negative attitude of the Department of Justice towards the interests of the legal profession. Issues of contention included the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement and attempts to penetrate the mainland market, the introduction of the Qualified Insurance Scheme and limiting lawyer liability. Miss Leung's response to most of his claims was that they were issues the Law Society should deal with itself. 'The president's support comes from the members rather than the government. The legal profession has always emphasised professional autonomy ... the government will support the Law Society if there is something the government can do,' she said. The controversial issue of the professional indemnity fund scheme was a matter for the Law Society, she insisted. Under the indemnity fund scheme, solicitors make mandatory contributions to the fund which provides insurance to all registered law firms in Hong Kong. However, a rise in claims over recent years has left the fund in severe deficit. With the introduction of the Quality Insurance Scheme, solicitors would buy insurance on the open market where they would negotiate their own terms. Regarding limited liability practice, Miss Leung said legislation had been amended in 1997 for the incorporation of solicitors' firms and was also something now in the hands of the Law Society. The language barrier could be a reason for Mr Lintern-Smith's belief that her office had a half-hearted attitude towards attempts to penetrate the mainland, she said. 'Mr Lintern-Smith is handicapped in that he doesn't speak or read Chinese and all the discussions with the mainland have been carried out by other members of the Chinese committee of the Law Society. The government will provide the platform but it is for members to make use of Cepa.' Miss Leung added that helping the legal profession in the development of their practice was an important part of the legal system and the rule of law, hence the constant meetings between the Law Society and her department.