THE FIRST STEP to becoming a practising lawyer in Hong Kong is to complete a law degree. Unlike Taiwan, the mainland and other parts of Asia, where science, engineering and business have often attracted the best students, law has long been regarded as one of the most prestigious university courses in Hong Kong. Geoffrey Booth of Haldanes said: 'For a few years after the handover, concerns over the direction of the law led some students to choose other careers. However, interest has been reviving and a greater number of students who have studied the law overseas are returning to Hong Kong to practise.' Once formal studies have been completed, the usual choice is either to work as a solicitor with a law firm or become a barrister. Yet another option is to become an in-house legal counsel for a company or a financial institution. Demand from the corporate sector is set to grow because of stricter compliance requirements and greater emphasis on tighter financial and corporate governance regulations. Government departments also need good lawyers. The Department of Justice and the Legal Aid Department provide options, as do government-related bodies such as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission. Many law school graduates, and barristers and solicitors with a few years of practical experience, decide to go into academia. They see it is an opportunity to pass on knowledge to others, comment on issues of public concern, and shape the next generation of lawyers in Hong Kong.