Ad hoc Admission of English QC with Solicitor Advocates

In Re Simpson QC [2019] HKCFI 2689, the High Court rejected a proposal that an English QC be admitted ad hoc on the basis that he would be instructed to appear together with two locally qualified solicitor advocates.

The court did allow the admission, but only on the usual condition insisted upon by the Bar Association (see para. 12.2 of its Code of Conduct) that the applicant appear together with a local barrister.

It was not disputed that the underlying litigation in respect of which the admission was sought was both substantial and complex, and that the applicant was otherwise suitably qualified pursuant to s. 27(4) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance (Cap. 159). Indeed, but for the fact that the applicant sought to appear with solicitor advocates (and without a local barrister) his admission would have been unopposed by the Bar Association and, presumably, would have gone to the Chief Judge for approval by consent.

Given the importance of the principal issue in dispute – namely, whether an English QC could be permitted to appear with solicitor advocates – and given the importance of the underlying litigation, it would be no surprise if the applicant sought to appeal.

Appeals arising out of ad hoc admission matters are rare, not least because the court below is exercising a discretion, but another factor making this case notable is the forceful support for the application provided by the Secretary for Justice’s legal representatives.

The Secretary for Justice’s position was that, for present purposes, there was no material distinction between solicitor advocates and barristers. It was submitted, for example, that the public interest (in the cross-fertilisation of skills and experience between the English QC and local counsel) was served in this case by the applicant appearing with the two solicitor advocates.

The case also confirms that just because an applicant seeks ad hoc admission to appear in a case in which the other side will be represented by an English QC does not absolve his/her instructing solicitors from making enquiries as to the availability of suitable local senior barristers.

Re Simpson QC is the first such application of its kind in Hong Kong. It is unlikely to be the last. At the time of writing, there are approximately seventy solicitor advocates in Hong Kong – while the development of their sub-branch of the profession is at a relatively early stage, they are a growing corps of well-trained, professional advocates, the demand for whom is driven by clients and the clear interest in the public having a choice.

Editorial Note: Charles Allen is a Solicitor Advocate, entitled to exercise higher rights of audience (Civil) in Hong Kong.

Jurisdictions: 

Partner, RPC

Focusing on commercial disputes, Charles Allen is a solicitor advocate supporting clients in domestic and cross-border litigation as well as in international arbitrations across numerous jurisdictions.

During the course of more than 20 years of practice in Asia, Charles has been involved in a wide range of disputes before the Hong Kong courts as well as in other jurisdictions around the region, including China, Singapore and India. 

Charles also specialises in domestic and international arbitration across a range of industries and has extensive experience under various rules including HKIAC, ICC, LCIA, UNCITRAL and LMAA. He has handled numerous institutional and ad hoc arbitrations as counsel, and has also sat as arbitrator.

Among others, Charles is on the arbitrator panels of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and the Law Society of Hong Kong. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Charles is a versatile and "very sharp and tactical lawyer" who represents clients on a variety of commercial disputes. He acts for a range of clients, including individuals, private and listed companies, multinationals, conglomerates and financial institutions.

He is dual qualified in Hong Kong where he has higher rights of audience in civil matters.