The transformation of Hong Kong's legal sector has prompted more people to seek postgraduate training in law. The number of applicants for master's of laws (LLM) and other postgraduate diplomas in law at the University of Hong Kong has grown by 2.7 times in five years, while Chinese University has seen the number more than double since it began to offer law courses three years ago. Course providers say the demand is a result of the city's legal reforms, which have triggered new requirements for practitioners, and the general pursuit of higher education during the economic downturn. A total of 651 people have applied for LLM and other postgraduate diplomas at HKU's law faculty for this academic year, compared with 610 last year. The figure has been increasing every year since 2004, when 241 people applied. More than 360 candidates competed for the university's new Juris Doctor programme this year, with the faculty accepting 44 students. Law faculty dean Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun said the economic downturn was one factor, but it could not fully explain the trend. He said the city's civil justice reforms - under which courts encourage people to use alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation before seeking litigation - was an incentive for lawyers to qualify for new roles. Increasing opportunities in the sector had attracted people from other professions. Chinese University's new law school is seeing the same trend. Its dean, Professor Mike McConville, said competition was intense for postgraduate places. 'Applicants for Juris Doctor programmes need a bachelor's degree with at least an upper-second-class honours in order to be eligible for consideration. Even this does not guarantee admission.' The university, which launched law programmes in 2006, received 1,908 applications for its 393 LLM and JD places this year, including a double degree programme which includes business administration, compared with 1,416 last year. City University's law school received about 300 applications for LLM and 500 for JD last year, up from 250 and 300 in 2005. Despite the growing demand, both Chan and McConville said they remained cautious about expanding. 'We want to ensure the quality of tuition. The admission figures will not change much in coming years,' McConville said.