You should study the following legislations:
- Legal Practitioners Ordinance, Cap.159, Laws of Hong Kong
- Barristers (Admission) Rules, Cap.159AA
- Barristers (Advanced Legal Education Requirement) Rules, Cap.159AB
- Barristers (Qualification for Admission and Pupillage) Rules, Cap.159AC
You should also study the Code of Conduct of the Bar of the HKSAR (“the Code”). You may also want to visit the website of Hong Kong Bar Association – http://www.hkba.org.
The period of pupillage is normally one of 12 months, of which at least 3 months are expected to be spent on civil and 3 months on criminal practice. How you structure the entire period of your pupillage basically depends on the types of work you want to see and the availability of your intended pupil masters. Your pupillage may also include not more than one month of service as a Judge’s Marshall. It is not uncommon that students apply to their intended pupil masters as early as during the last year of their undergraduate study. To serve as a Judge’s Marshall, you would have to apply to the Judiciary Administrator or the Judge directly.
A practising barrister who has been in full practice at the Bar in Hong Kong for not less than 5 continuous years is eligible to take a pupil. A Senior Counsel may take a pupil for not more than 3 months. You may visit the website of Hong Kong Bar Association to view the Bar List which contains a full list of our practising members.
Apart from the answers to Q.2 and Q.3 above, there is no specific requirement or restriction as to the number of pupil masters one may have. However, pupillage with a particular barrister for less than 3 months is normally not approved. Further, you may not serve pupillage with more than one Senior Counsel or with a Senior Counsel for a period of more than 3 months.
Q.5 What happens if my pupillage is so arranged that the last part of my 12-month pupillage becomes less than 3 months?
The Bar Council has the discretion to consider approving such pupillage arrangement on a case-by-case basis.
Q.6 What should I do if I still have a month or just a few days of the 12-month pupillage to serve but the validity of my certificate of eligibility for pupillage would expire before then?
You would need to extend your certificate of eligibility for pupillage. The rules require you to apply for the extension not less than 2 months prior to the expiry of the current certificate. Ignorance of the time limit does not afford a good excuse for the Bar Council to exercise its discretion to extend your certificate out of time. The application fee is HK$250. If the extension is for a few days, you may ask the Bar Council to consider waiving the application fee.
The period of pupillage may be reduced if the pupil has substantial experience in court advocacy at the time of the application for pupillage. Previous experience of other work or practice in the legal field will not suffice. Application for reduction of pupillage should be made to the Chief Judge of the High Court.
Yes. However, if all your pupil masters would certify that you are fit and suitable to practise as a barrister at the end of the 12-month pupillage, you would still be required to apply for a full practising certificate for the purpose of carrying on your practice. In that case, the pupillage extended beyond the 12th month would be a voluntary arrangement between you and the barrister from whom you want to continue to learn.
Your pupillage should be served during the 12-month validity of your certificate of eligibility for pupillage. Truncation or suspension during the course of pupillage is not approved except by prior application and in exceptional circumstances. Any approval may be granted upon terms and the extension of the certificate of eligibility for pupillage.
Apart from weekends and public holidays, any other holiday will be treated as truncation of your pupillage and the answer to Q.9 above applies.
There is no mandatory funding of pupillage in Hong Kong. However, chambers may have their own arrangements. Pupil masters also have the discretion to remunerate pupils for work of value. The Bar Association has established various scholarships and funds which pupils may apply for. You could contact the Bar Secretariat or visit the Bar website for details.
Pupils must apply for prior approval of the Bar Council for engagement in supplementary occupation during pupillage. Such applications would be decided on a case-by-case basis considering the nature and extent of such engagement, the views of the pupil master as well as whether the pupil's training may be adversely affected. Any approval may be granted on terms.
You must apply for the certificate of eligibility for pupillage. Your application (Form 5, Sch.2 Barristers (Qualification for Admission and Pupillage) Rules) must be submitted not less than 3 weeks prior to the commencement of your pupillage. Any period of training undertaken during these 3 weeks would not be counted towards your pupillage in any event.
The referees should not be your parents or siblings and should have personally known you for a period of time during which they had sufficient opportunities to judge your character.
There is no prescribed content of the reference letter. However, the referee should state the basis on which he or she is able to attest to the applicant's good character. The letter should contain the contact details of the referee.
This is not unusual that the formal certificate of your PCLL qualification may not be issued by the time of your application. For the purpose of your application, an official written confirmation of the passing of all the PCLL examinations issued by the relevant university would normally be acceptable.
Q.17 I find that the wordings of Form 5 do not fully reflect my circumstances at the time of the application (e.g. for reasons such as the answer to Q.16 above). Could and should I alter the wordings of the form?
Notwithstanding that, you are advised not to alter the wordings of Form 5 which are prescribed by the law. Otherwise your application may be rejected or require rectification. Either case would cause delay. In case of doubt, you should make enquiries before you submit the application.
If your papers are in order and upon receipt of intended pupil master's application, your application will be considered by the Bar Council's Special Committee on Pupillage and Limited Practice. Once approval is given, you'll be notified by the Bar Secretariat for the collection of the certificate of eligibility as well as a pupils' information pack.
Applications for pupillage after the issue of the certificate of eligibility should be made in writing prior to the proposed commencement date of pupillage with the particular barrister. Do allow time for processing.
Pupil Barrister Card - This serves as your identification card when accompanying your pupil master to detention facilities of the Correctional Services Department. Application should be made to the Bar Secretariat (with 1 recent photograph of yours, with either red/blue background colour and HK$20 fee). The card is valid for 12 months.
Judiciary Libraries Reader's Card - This allows you access to court library facilities. Application form could be obtained from the Bar Secretariat or the court libraries.
Bar Circulars - Pupils are strongly advised to subscribe to the Bar Circulars which contain important notices and useful information about the Bar and legal practice. The subscription fee is HK$100 for 6 months.
You may want to adopt the template of the pupillage logbook contained in Annex 13 of the Code. For confidentiality of your pupil master's practice, while you should record the nature of the cases and your work, you are not required to, and you should not, disclose details of your pupil master's cases which would identify the lay clients or particular court cases handled by your pupil masters.
Your pupillage logbook should be handed to your pupil master for his/her comment on your work and involvement. Your pupil master is also required to sign your logbook to signify his/her acceptance of the record of the work done by you. If necessary, the Special Committee on Pupillage and Limited Practice may require clarification of the logbook from the pupil and/or the pupil master.
You must first apply from the Bar Council a certificate of qualification for admission (Form 3, Sch.2 Barristers (Qualification for Admission and Pupillage) Rules) upon completing the first 6 months of your pupillage. You need to attach to your Form 3 the certificate(s) issued by your pupil master(s) that you have completed the relevant period of pupillage diligently and you are fit and suitable to practise as a barrister. You also need to submit to the Bar Council your pupillage logbook. Upon receipt of your certificate, you may proceed to apply to the court for admission.
Letter of reference has to be written recently. You may ask the same referees who wrote the letters of reference for your Form 5 application to write for you again.
The application for admission is made by way of notice of motion to the High Court. The solicitors acting for you would file the motion papers on your behalf. It is not uncommon that arrangement could be made so that solicitors are willing to act for you on a complimentary basis. Occasionally pupils act in person. Likewise, it is the tradition of the Bar that your pupil master would be ready to be instructed on a complimentary basis to move your admission at the hearing. In any event, you need to pay the fee prescribed by the court for the application.
Upon receipt of the notice of motion, the court will fix a date, normally a Saturday morning, for the hearing of the motion which shall be not less than 14 days after the filing.
You would be required to be fully robed as a barrister to attend the hearing. Therefore be sure that you have the barrister’s attire ready by then. See Annex 11 of the Code for the dress code.
You may need to order the barrister's attire locally and/or from overseas. If necessary, you may contact the members of the Young Barristers Committee or the Bar Secretariat for information. Since the ordering process takes time, you are advised to make the necessary arrangement 3 months in advance of your admission.
Upon admission, you would be eligible to apply to practise to a limited extent under the guidance and supervision of your pupil master(s) during the rest of your pupillage.
You may download from the Bar's website a checklist of the documents required to submit for your application.
Q.34 Is there any way I would be able to commence limited practice as soon after my admission as possible?
You should be able to keep the time required for obtaining the practising certificate after admission to a minimum if you proceed in the following manner:
- Arrange professional indemnity insurance coverage under the Bar's master policy near the end of your first 6 months of pupillage. You would be entitled to a refund of any overpaid premium as a result of the early arrangement.
- Submit your application to commence limited practice (subject to admission) at the same time as your application for the certificate of qualification for admission.
- Upon your admission, proceed to the Bar Secretariat and fill out a standard written declaration of your admission and undertaking to submit the Registrar's certificate of your admission as soon as you receive it.
- Pay the Bar Association membership subscription and the practising certificate fee in advance.
Registrar’s certificate of admission - You must file with the Bar Secretariat the Registrar's certificate of your admission as soon as you receive it. Failure or delay in doing so may constitute a breach of your undertaking to the Bar Council given when you applied for the limited practising certificate.
Bar Card - This is issued to all members of the Bar Association. Upon collection of the Bar Card, you must surrender your Pupil Barrister Card.
Business Registration - You are required by the law to apply for business registration with the Inland Revenue Department within 1 month of the commencement of your practice.
Mandatory Provident Fund - As a self-employed person, you are required by the law to arrange for mandatory provident fund contribution.
You apply in writing together with the up to date pupillage logbook and your pupil masters' certificates. You also pay the prescribed fees for Bar Association membership (if not already paid) and the practising certificate. And, to arrange professional indemnity insurance coverage under the Bar's master policy, if not already arranged.
You must practise at professional chambers of barrister(s) whether as a tenant or squatter. You may also set up your own professional chambers. In any event, business centers or premises shared with persons other than practising barristers are not professional chambers for such purpose.
All pupils commencing pupillage would receive an information pack on the ALE programmes. From time to time, you would also receive circulars containing notices of forthcoming ALE programmes and enrolment forms.
Q.39 How could I ensure that I would be able to accumulate the necessary ALE points by the end of my pupillage?
The ALE programmes are organized at such a frequency that you should be able to accumulate the necessary ALE points by the end of your pupillage. You should pay attention to the circulars informing you of the holding of the programmes and take the first opportunity to enroll yourself. Once your enrolment is accepted, you should not excuse yourself from attending save for very good reasons and you must give sufficient advance notice for the ALE Director to vacate your registration for another pupil to take your place.
Q.40 What should I do if I am yet to accumulate all the necessary ALE points upon completion of the 12-month pupillage?
You would not be considered as having completed your pupillage. However, the Bar Council retains the discretion to consider approving your commencement of full practice on condition that you undertake to acquire the outstanding ALE points. Application for commencement of full practice upon such undertaking has to be sent to the ALE Director in advance. Such application would be decided on a case-by-case basis and approved only if the circumstances justify.
All barristers within 5 years' standing are Young Barristers and are welcome to join the activities organised by Young Barristers Committee.