- Lawyers are often seen (e.g. on TV) standing up in court and arguing: is this the main work that lawyers do?
- No. Some lawyers do appear in court to argue cases, but most practising lawyers in Hong Kong will only go to court rarely – and many will never go to court.
The majority of lawyers in Hong Kong will work in a firm of solicitors, where they give legal advice to their clients about legal matters. Sometimes this may relate to disputes that arise in the course of their clients’ business. But a lot of advice will also be given about how business deals and investments can be structured to avoid disputes in the future. In such matters a young lawyer will normally find himself or herself working as part of a team in a particular area – such as commercial law, intellectual property law, entertainment law etc.
- Other than “Commercial Law”, what sort of areas might I work in as a lawyer?
- Initially, most young lawyers will join a firm of solicitors and will do a variety of tasks in different legal areas. After gaining this experience, he or she will have plenty of opportunity to specialize in a particular area if he or she wishes. Common areas of specialization include:
Intellectual Property (trade marks, patents etc)
Internet Law and IT Law
Entertainment and Media Law
Mainland China Investment Law
Banking and Finance
- So, is it correct that most lawyers do not spend their time defending people accused of committing crimes?
- Absolutely. Some lawyers do enjoy that sort of work and want to specialize in criminal law – but this is a small minority.
- Are there more solicitors than barristers in Hong Kong?
- Yes. Much more. Probably less than 10% of our students want to become barristers. Most want to be solicitors. But this is a decision that can be made much later in your career path.
- After I complete the LLB can I work as a practising lawyer (barrister or solicitor) in Hong Kong.
- No. The LLB is the academic stage of your training. In the LLB you develop both intellectual skills and general legal skills. There is also a vocational or professional stage to your training. This is a one-year programme called the PCLL (Post-graduate Certificate in Laws). The PCLL is where you will learn about the day-to-day aspects of being a practising lawyer in Hong Kong.
- So after my LLB, I can proceed to do the PCLL and after that will go to work as a practising lawyer.
- Correct. Most students choose to work in a firm of solicitors.
- What is a “trainee solicitor”?
- When you first go to work in a firm of solicitors you are called a “trainee solicitor”. After 24 months you will be admitted as a (full) solicitor. Fortunately, there are no more exams to be taken after completing the PCLL!
- What sort of salary will a trainee solicitor receive?
- It, of course, will depend on how good you are. At present, if you do well in your studies and go to work as a trainee solicitor in a big firm (often called a “City Firm”) you can expect a salary of $30-40,000 per month. When you are admitted as a solicitor two years later, you can expect your salary to increase further. But, of course, not everyone gets to work for a big firm. Medium sized firms pay less. Also, no one can tell you what salary levels will be in five years’ time. As for everyone, when the economy is good, salaries go up, when it is bad, they go down. But lawyers, especially good ones, are handsomely rewarded for their work. The following diagram set out the career path:
- Are there any additional admission requirements for the LLB above the university minimum requirements?
- No. But JUPAS admission results over the past two years indicate that successful applicants obtained an average grade for the HKCEE and 2AL1AS at Grade B and a minimum grade for UE at Grade B. For details of the JUPAS admissions figures, please visit http://www.jupas.edu.hk/jupas/content_download.htm
- Is the LLB only appropriate for “arts stream” students?
- No. Many good lawyers did science subjects at secondary schools. If you have good intellectual and language skills then the LLB may suit you.
- Is UE given extra weight in LLB admissions?
- Yes. UE is given extra weighting in comparison with other A-level and AS-level subjects, due to the demanding nature of the legal material law students are expected to read and discuss form their first days in law school.
- Will the Faculty only consider Band A applicants?
- In theory, we consider applicants of Band A, B and C, but experience tells that all places can be filled without exhausting the Band A pool. Therefore, students who really wish to get into Law Faculty should put LLB not only as a Band A choice, but preferably as their first choice since this will give them the best chance of being included by the Faculty in its offering list when we match the applicants with their choices after the release of examination results.
- How many places are there in the LLB for JUPAS and Non-JUPAS students?
- The intake quota is 86, and will mostly be filled by JUPAS, non-JUPAS and EAS students. The proportions vary from year to year, depending on the quality. Applicants can expect that around 15 % to 20% of the total places will be allocated for competition among non-JUPAS candidates, if quality permits.
- Are there interviews for Non-JUPAS applicants?
- Normally yes. Further details will be uploaded to this website in the near future, https://www.law.hku.hk/.
- Are there interviews for JUPAS applicants?
- Normally no.
- Will the Faculty give exemptions from any of the admission requirements?
- What are my career prospects after graduation from Law Faculty?
- The majority of our LLB graduates will proceed to study the one-year long PCLL programme which is the qualification for entry into the legal profession in Hong Kong, either as solicitors or barristers. Some law graduates may choose to enter into other sectors, such as business, banking and public service etc.
- Are there opportunities to go on exchange at an overseas university?
- Absolutely yes. We encourage exchanges very much. One semester or one year exchanges are readily compatible with our programme. Exchange scholarships or financial sponsorships will be available to LLB students with good academic standing. In addition to exchange programmes organized by the University as a whole, the Faculty of Law has its own, additional exchange agreements with a range of leading law schools in North America, Australia, the UK, and Europe. It is also possible to do an exchange period at a law school in the PRC.
- Why does law have to be a 4-year programme?
- The trend of legal practice is increasingly multi-jurisdictional in the future. This is especially applicable given the reunification of Hong Kong with China and the increasing globalisation of the Hong Kong economy. A 3-year programme is no longer adequate to equip our students and graduates with the necessary skills and knowledge to compete in the Hong Kong legal profession. Indeed, most of the LLB programmes around the world are 4 years in duration.
- When did the 4 year LLB commence?
- The first intake was in September 2004.
- After September 2004 will I be able to go to City U and do an LLB in 3 years?
- No. Both City U and HKU changed in September 2004 to a 4 year programme.
- I already have a degree. Will I still have to do the 4 year LLB?
- We used to offer a Fast-track LLB programme to enable graduate students to obtain their LLB in only 3 years by taking only law courses and leaving out all the non-law courses now inlcuded as part of the LLB. This will be discountinued as from 2009-10. Instead, graduate students may apply to our new JD programmewhich will be offered as from 2009-10.
- What are the reasons for HKU changing from a 3 year LLB to a 4 year LLB?
- The change was recommended by expert consultants appointed by Government and applies to all LLB programmes at universities in Hong Kong (i.e. HKU and CityU). The main benefits will be that students will get a deeper understanding of legal studies and will be better prepared for life as a professional lawyer. More courses aimed at enhancing students’ professional skills will be offered in the 4 year LLB.
- Why should Hong Kong have a 4 year LLB when other countries have 3 years programmes?
- It is important to emphasize that 4 years is now the ‘norm’ for an LLB. If you look at Australia, New Zealand or Singapore, or European countries or Mainland PRC, you will find that 4 or even 5 year undergraduate programmes are required. In the US and Canada the law degree is a second degree – i.e. law is not studied as an undergraduate programme. By changing to 4 years Hong Kong is adopting the international standard.
- What does the 4-year programme teach?
- The first two years will focus on the building up of a solid foundation in legal knowledge and basic legal skills. The idea is to enable students to learn key legal concepts, analysis, thinking and writing skills through the teaching and learning of core law courses like Contract, Tort, and Criminal Law.
In the third and final years, students are allowed to choose among the law electives, in which students would have the opportunity, according to their preferences, to specialize in a particular area of law, or obtain a minor in a discipline other than law (presently, only a Minor in Social Sciences is available). Future developments may include giving students the opportunity to obtain double degree qualifications from HKU and a prestigious mainland university, or obtain a second degree awarded at this University by doing an extra year of study in another Faculty in this University.
The idea is to enable our graduates to acquire a competitive edge on graduation and to excel in their career development.
- Is the teaching method different from that in the 3-year LLB?
- Yes, indeed the change is not just limited to the number of years, but goes more fundamentally to the nature of teaching. The new 4-year LLB is to be taught in a small group, problem-based and student-centred learning environment. The emphasis is on the students’ learning process, and we believe that this is the best way to ensure that our students acquire the core competencies in legal learning which are of life-long value.
- Are there new requirements for admission to the 4-year LLB programme?
- Our requirements for admission are the same as the present ones: excellent standard in English, good critical and analytical abilities, ability to express oneself in a logical and systematic manner, and needless to say, an interest in the law.
For those candidates who have a mind to obtain a double degree with a mainland University, the ability to read and write Chinese and to speak Cantonese and Putonghua would be required.
- Does the 4-year LLB admit applicants of the Early Admission Scheme?
- Yes. Many students applying on the Early Admission Scheme each year have already been admitted to our LLB programme.
- After I have completed the 4 year LLB will I be able to start working as a practising lawyer?
- No. After the LLB students must take a one year professional training programme – the PCLL ‘ before going to work in a solicitors’ firm or as a barrister. This requirement does not change.
- So to qualify as a practising lawyer I will need to spend 4 years (LLB) + 1 year (PCLL) at university?
- Can I do the PCLL at HKU, or is that programme only available elsewhere?
- The PCLL is taught at HKU. The programme at HKU has the biggest intake of the only programmes in Hong Kong (HKU and CUHK). From 2005-2006, the PCLL is offered in both full-time and part-time modes.
- When the LLB changed from 3 years to 4 years did that mean the extra cost of the fourth year has to be borne by the student on a full-fee basis?
- No. The Government will subsidize all 4 years. The fees will be the same in Year 4 as for any other degree programme.
- Would I spend more time in obtaining a qualification in legal practice than other overseas students by doing the law degree at HKU?
- Most of the LLB programmes offered by overseas universities are 4 years in duration, except those in the United Kingdom. However, overseas LLB graduates who would like to be admitted to the PCLL (the mandatory professional course for legal practice in Hong Kong) are required to pass conversion examination in a number of pre-requisite courses for admission to the PCLL. This requirement is to ensure overseas graduates are adequately prepared in Hong Kong laws for the skills training in the PCLL. For more information on conversion exam, please visit http://www.pcea.com.hk/.
- What about the graduates of the CPE programmes and London University external degrees?
- They are required to do conversion exam before they are eligible for admission to PCLL.
- If I don’t want to do a 4 year programme in Hong Kong, can I go to England and do a three year LLB and immediately thereafter enter the PCLL?
- No. Students will not be eligible for entry to the PCLL unless they have already satisfied a list of pre-requisites. This will include several courses that are not normally taught as part of the LLB in England (for example, the Hong Kong Basic Law). Students returning to Hong Kong from England (or indeed any other country) will be required to take a conversion course (or courses) to satisfy these prerequisites.
- Does this mean that I cannot use going to England to study as a ‘shortcut’?
- If I study the LLB in HKU, will I be able to take all the courses required as pre-requisites for the PCLL?
- Yes, of course. The 4 year LLB and PCLL have been designed to fit neatly together for the benefit of students.
- Other than the pre-requisites, are there any other benefits to taking the LLB at HKU?
- Yes. Because the two programme (LLB and PCLL) have been designed together, it has been possible to ensure that the content of the LLB courses is best suited to what students will be facing later in the PCLL. The idea is that students may benefit from a smoother transmission from the HKU LLB to the PCLL.
- Under the 4 year LLB will it be possible for a student to go on exchange (for one term or two terms) to a foreign university?
- We very much encourage our LLB students to go on exchange. Such an exchange programme is very common already amongst our LLB students. Students on exchange from HKU go to many famous universities in Europe and North America and other parts of the world. The University exchange arrangement is over 150 leading universities in the world. For more details, please visit the website of the Office of International Student Exchange. The 4 year LLB will make exchanges, particularly for two terms, much easier for the students.