Barristers will have to pay each of their pupils a subsidy of at least HK$6,000 from September 1 next year.

The Hong Kong Bar Association has passed a resolution amending its code of conduct, which also includes a provision allowing members to take up other jobs as long they do not affect the Bar’s reputation or clients’ interests.

The changes are expected to encourage more law students – many of whom are deterred by low or no-income pupillage – to become barristers.

Under the primary and supplementary occupation rules that were abolished with immediate effect, a barrister was required to have his or her practice as primary occupation. Engagement in supplementary occupations would require permission from the Bar Council.

Barristers did not need prior approval for various part-time jobs under the code of conduct, including work as law school teachers, lawmakers and columnists.

Association vice chairman Robert Pang Yiu-hung, SC, told The Standard that barristers are now no longer required to maintain their practice as their primary occupation.

“They could engage in other occupations as long as their association with that occupation does not adversely affect the reputation of the Bar, or prejudice their ability to attend properly to their practice or the interests of their clients,” Pang said.

He added there will be a system of prior notification to allow the Bar Council to monitor the supplementary occupations.

Pupil masters will be required to pay an honorarium of not less than HK$6,000 a month to their pupils. Previously, pupil masters could pay whatever amount they preferred – or none at all.

According to the Bar list, 104 senior counsels and 1,406 junior counsels are in practice in Hong Kong. There are currently 80 pupils.

Junior barristers, who do not have a basic salary, pay their share of the rent for chambers, often exerting financial pressures on them.

Barrister Chris Ng Chung-luen said HK$6,000 is not much, but it is a good start.

The resolution will help attract graduates to become barristers, he said.

Barristers are deemed as self-employed while solicitors are employed by laws firms and have salaries.

The resolution will also prompt barristers to be more selective of pupils.

The amendment to the code of conduct comes after barrister Albert Leung Sze-ho challenged the association’s rejection of his application to work as a “neuro-beautologist” as it was deemed incompatible with law practice.

After the Bar Association won the case in the Court of Appeal, he was granted leave last year to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal.

Charlotte Luo (charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com)

(Article originally appeared in The Standard on 16 November 2018 )