I am immensely honoured to be entrusted with the presidential role as the Law Society enters its 114th year since its establishment in 1907.
I am humbled by the task before me as I picked up the baton at this crucial moment for our profession. These are challenging times. I am acutely aware that we have to chase against time to make up for the lost opportunities caused by the disruption arising from the social unrest and the pandemic in the past two years.
Time is short, with a long list of things to do. Fortunately, my predecessors, with all their good work during their tenure, have laid a solid foundation for me to continue serving the profession effectively and efficiently and I am deeply grateful to them. Together with my three Vice Presidents, Mr Amirali Nasir, Mr Roden Tong and Mr Christopher Yu, we pledge to continue serving the profession to the best of our abilities.
The impact of the social unrest and the prolonged pandemic on society is far reaching. In the diversified range of work that the Law Society has been doing for its members, three areas are particularly dear to my heart and important against the current social environment. They are upholding the rule of law, fostering unity among our members and maintaining the sustainable development of the legal profession.
Uphold the rule of law
The rule of law underpins Hong Kong’s way of life and success. Yet, open defiance of law and order, abusive graffiti against named judges, life threatening calls to judicial officers and impulsive and unsound public criticism of court judgments, all attempting to pressure and influence the decision-making process of judges, are impacting the perception on Hong Kong’s respect for the rule of law. As members of the legal profession in regular contact with the legal and judicial systems, our views on how justice is being administered contribute as an important indicator. We, as officers of the court, have a duty to articulate and promote a proper understanding of the rule of law and to protect it from being undermined, eroded or misused. Just about 2 weeks after I assumed my role as President, the Council had to speak up and remind the public not to do anything to impact judicial independence and the operation of Hong Kong’s common law within “One Country, Two Systems”. In our statement dated 15 September 2021, we reiterated that:
“Whilst the freedom of speech should be respected, it is important for those who intend to make comments, and those who read the comments, regarding a court’s decision to verify the full context in which a judgment was issued and to study carefully the reasoning set out in the judgment, to make sure that whatever view they form is an informed view based on correct and verified information.”
Polarisation of views, a global issue, is like a contagious disease and the Hong Kong community is not immune to it. It is divisive and inhibitive of progress. The inability to move forward in this rapidly changing market means we will lose out to our competitors. Not only do we need to move forward, we need to do it quickly to make up for time lost because of difficulties created by COVID-19 and the public order events.
Unity is the key to a strong profession. I have never felt so deeply about the truth of this statement as I do now. In times of change, we must stand united. The Law Society will continue to facilitate the building of consensus on the profession’s common goals and strengthen unity of the profession.
I pledge to uphold the concept of diversity and inclusion and to that end, I welcome different views and opinions. In the coming months, I intend to meet with a broad range of stakeholders including the Secretary for Justice, Secretaries of Government Bureaux, the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Legal Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in HKSAR, the Office of the Commissioner of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC in HKSAR and representatives from foreign embassies/consulate-generals. Most importantly, I would like to hear from our members. Please feel free to drop me a line on any Law Society matters. Subject to the Covid restrictions, we may resume members’ forum which is a pre-eminent venue for members to express their views. As of today, the new Council for 2021/2022 has already met with the Secretary for Justice on 23 September 2021 on issues of mutual concerns. I will keep members informed in my weekly letters.
The challenges of the impact arising from the fast-paced globalisation, innovation and technology-based changes around the world have created multi-faceted issues where different sectors and different jurisdictions are crossing paths with each other. Legal professionals must be able to navigate through these complexities and apply their expertise in an evolving practice environment. Attracting new entrants to the profession and assisting them to cope with the changing market needs is important to ensure a sustainable development of the profession. One recent example of the Law Society’s work on this front is the Legal Talent Recruitment Scheme which provides government subsidies for new job openings created for trainee solicitors in law firms. In addition to creating new jobs, the Scheme also aims at ensuring the sustainable development of the legal sector in the long term by ensuring that training continued notwithstanding the difficulties and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic so that when the market picks up, there will be sufficient qualified professionals to meet the service demands.
We will continue to provide relevant and effective support to members and explore new markets for members to build their business network and expand their practices. We will also continue working closely with stakeholders like the Administration, the Judiciary, the Legislature, the legal service providers and users as well as the legal education academia and trainers and others on enhancing their understanding of the needs of the profession.
Together with my fellow Council members and the Secretariat, we will do our utmost to serve the profession and with members’ support, we look forward to a fulfilling term ahead!
(from left to right) Vice President Christopher Yu, Vice President Amirali Nasir, President CM Chan and Vice President Roden Tong