In January 2010, the Faculty introduced a live-client Clinical Legal Education (“CLE”) Programme, which is the first in the history of Hong Kong. On 8 April 2017 we hosted our third annual reunion gathering at HKU for current and former CLE students, volunteer duty lawyers and former clients. Some former clients were invited to share their experiences. Three such experiences are set out below.
Mr Singh had a civil dispute with his former employer, which ended in a long-drawn out legal saga, including his being petitioned for bankruptcy based on a default judgment, his successful application in person to set aside the petition and default judgment, his successful trial in the District Court with legal representation on legal aid, his losing the appeal before the Court of Appeal when both parties were represented by leading counsel, and his eventual success before the Court of Final Appeal. After losing at the Court of Appeal, he felt frustrated and disappointed as his leading counsel had advised the Legal Aid Department that there were no merits in his intended appeal to the Court of Final Appeal. Mr Singh then sought assistance from the CLE Centre, and he eventually obtained legal aid and won his appeal before the Court of Final Appeal. He thanked the CLE team for their dedicated effort, explaining that he felt strongly that the students and duty lawyers had not treated him as just one of the cases to be studied but had shared his urge to achieve a just outcome.
Ms Lau, who has been working as a cleaner with meagre income, had lost basically all her savings after being lulled into some financial investment by a staff of an investment company who purported to conduct a survey on the street and befriended her. She felt aggrieved and helpless when her application for legal aid to pursue a civil claim against the investment company was rejected. She expressed her heartfelt thanks to our CLE team and volunteer counsel, Mr Wilson Leung, who helped her to obtain legal aid by successfully appealing to a Court Master. With legal aid, her civil claim was eventually settled satisfactorily.
Mr Edmond Lam, Course Coordinator of the CLE Programme, advised students always to keep an open attitude to cases and leave no stone unturned in their research, instead of rigidly following some mechanical practice or policies. Mr Eric Cheung, Director of CLE, reminded the students that a case, though being run-of-the-mill to a lawyer, might well be the lay client’s only encounter with the justice system in his or her life and be regarded as a matter of life or death. He hoped that through the sharing at the gathering, students could gain a better understanding of how lay clients viewed our justice system and the important contribution that dedicated pro bono lawyers could make to help achieve justice. He also hoped that more experienced lawyers in private practice could join us as volunteer duty lawyers to guide our students and to provide quality free legal advice to the public.