I am greatly honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to serve the profession as President of the Law Society. The dedication and hard work of my predecessors is a hard act to follow, but I will do my best to continue their good efforts in promoting the interests of the profession.
I joined the Council in 2005. Back then, there were about 6,100 members. I am pleased to note that we have just passed the 10,000 mark, with our membership reaching 10,032 in May 2016. Admission to the solicitors’ branch of the profession has maintained an average annual growth rate of about 5.8 percent in the past 11 years.
Over the years, the combined effect of the policy trend to reduce national barriers to international economic transactions and the rapid advancement in technology has driven global economic integration. The advent of technology removes barriers in time and space and reduces the cost of moving information, people, goods and capital around the world. This phenomenon has resulted in the liberalisation of international trade and the massive expansion of the economic market, as well as the range of goods and services that support it.
An open market, coupled with a mobile workforce, has created a highly competitive business environment. To ensure the continued development of our profession against this backdrop, it is important to strengthen our capability and standards to keep up with society’s changing demands. This must include maintaining high professional standards and ensuring practitioners adopt quality risk management practices. This in turn will ensure clients get the best service possible and the public interest is protected. It will also ensure our legal industry remains competitive in the region.
During my term in the coming months, I will focus on leading efforts to strengthen our Hong Kong brand as a world class legal service provider. This will encompass work on various fronts, including maintaining professional standards through relevant and effective training, offering professional legal training to our Mainland counterparts, and promoting the quality services Hong Kong solicitors can offer to emerging markets.
To enable members to maintain high standards, the Law Society implemented the Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) Scheme in 1998 and the Risk Management Education (“RME”) Programme in 2004. We conducted nearly 500 CPD and RME courses for practitioners in 2015. The key to these training programmes is their relevance to the profession. There must be a sufficiently wide range of CPD and RME topics to suit the profession’s diversified training needs. There should also be a constant review of common mistakes and breaches, which should be communicated through the training programmes to alert members to the pitfalls in their practice.
It has always been jokingly said that running a legal practice is a “risky business”. Managing risks is no doubt an intrinsic part of legal practice management. The Law Society was the pioneer in introducing a mandatory RME Programme. Our RME Programme has successfully raised risk awareness in the profession and equipped practitioners with the necessary risk management tools. Having accumulated the RME experience for over 10 years, the Law Society is well positioned to share our expertise with others across the region, particularly with our counterparts in Mainland China. I introduced our RME Programme to practitioners in Chengdu in May 2016 and in Beijing when I last visited the Beijing Lawyers Association in June 2016. As the President, I fully intend to continue leading these efforts.
Legal practitioners in Hong Kong have many unique capabilities; however, foreign clients in cross boundary transactions may not be aware of them. As such, I will also focus on making certain that all potential clients are aware of the high quality services that Hong Kong solicitors can offer. The Belt and Road Initiative has brought about immense opportunities for an expansion of our legal service market into various emerging economies. It falls on the Law Society to coordinate efforts in opening up these markets for our members. In the maze of around 70 countries covered by the Belt and Road Initiative, the policy direction of the Central Government points to the ASEAN countries, which include Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia. As an active member of LAWASIA, the Law Society has good connections with the legal professional bodies in these ASEAN countries. Taking advantage of the network that the Law Society has built, I will work on extending it further for the benefit of the profession. I look forward to bringing our brand as a world class legal service provider to a higher level.
I am humbled at being chosen to lead the Law Society and tackle the challenges that lie ahead, and thankful for the unfailing support of the Council and the Secretariat. As a team, we pledge to do our best for the benefit of our members and the profession as a whole.