Hong Kong courts

Lawyers giving free legal advice under Hong Kong government schemes are insured

  • The Duty Lawyer Service and the government have procured professional indemnity insurance to cover lawyers providing pro bono services under two schemes
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 January, 2019, 6:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 January, 2019, 6:33am

In response to the article, “Make it simpler to provide free legal advice, lawyers say” (January 6), I write to clarify that the Free Legal Advice Scheme funded by the Hong Kong SAR government under the Duty Lawyer Service is covered by professional indemnity insurance, contrary to what is suggested in the article.

As mentioned in the article, members of the public may seek free legal advice under the eponymous scheme which is administered by the Duty Lawyer Service and funded by the government. The scheme provides preliminary legal advisory services to the public without means testing at nine district offices of the Home Affairs Department. At present, there are over 1,000 volunteer lawyers taking part in the scheme. In 2018, the scheme handled around 7,000 cases.

In addition to the Free Legal Advice Scheme, the public may also seek procedural legal advice for free from the publicly funded Legal Advice Scheme for Unrepresented Litigants on Civil Procedures (Procedural Advice Scheme). This scheme covers intended litigants and litigants who are parties to civil legal proceedings in the District Court or higher courts, as well as the Lands Tribunal and Family Court, and conducted around 12,800 advice sessions for over 4,100 litigants in the past five years. About 100 lawyers enrolled as community lawyers under the scheme last month.

Lawyers offering advice for free say ‘clients’ broaden their horizons

You may wish to note that volunteer lawyers providing pro bono legal services under the Free Legal Advice and Procedural Advice schemes are covered by professional indemnity insurance procured by the Duty Lawyer Service and the government respectively, regardless of whether they are barristers or solicitors by profession.

In fact, the professional indemnity insurance under the Free Legal Advice Scheme also covers pro bono lawyers engaged by the Duty Lawyer Services’ partner non-governmental organisations and institutions.

The government is appreciative of and counts on the continuous support of the legal profession in providing pro bono legal services to the community.

Pro bono legal help levels playing field for Hong Kong NGOs

We certainly welcome and encourage more legal professionals to take part in the Free Legal Advice and Procedural Advice schemes. Such pro bono work enhances access to legal advice services by members of the public and plays an important role in safeguarding the legal rights of members of the public.

Nicholas Chan, assistant director of administration, Chief Secretary for Administration’s Office