(This post assumes that you are a foreign or overseas lawyer admitted in a common law jurisdiction, and that you are applying to sit or be exempt from sitting the Law Society of Hong Kong’s Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination – “OLQE”).
You may apply to sit the OLQE if you:
(1) are entitled to practise the law of an overseas jurisdiction;
(2) have at least 2 years of post-admission experience in the practice of law, including any period of traineeship (or practical legal training instead of traineeship); and
(3) are in good standing in the jurisdiction(s) in which you are admitted. (See Section A of the OLQE 2022 Information Pack, page 2: https://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/en/Maintain-Standards/Admission-Standards. (See Section B of the InfoPack for the list of common law and non-common law jurisdictions).
But as this post explains, it is not enough to be a qualified lawyer. All applicants must complete an application form, Form A – (Download Form A from Section G of the OLQE 2022 Info Pack, page 29). Form A prescribes the documents you must supply in support of your application.
In addition to many other required documents, you must annex a certified copy of a transcript/academic record from the university or college from which you obtained your degree/diploma (see Form A, paragraph 12, page 39).
As a lawyer admitted in a common law jurisdiction, you must confirm you have completed courses in Contract, Torts, Property, Criminal Law, Equity, and Constitutional and Administrative Law (“the named subjects”) – see Form A, paragraph 12A.
If you have not completed courses in all of the named subjects, you must:
- state and highlight which of the subjects you have completed; AND
- confirm that your legal qualification has provided substantially similar course(s) or the functional equivalent of the courses not completed, and explain on a separate sheet how this was done; OR
- confirm that, as an alternative to completing the course(s), you have had practical experience in the subjects you have not completed, and give details of such experience on a separate sheet – see Form A, paragraph 12B.
Paragraph 12B applies, for example, if your transcript includes a subject which you think covered the topics in one of the named subjects, but which uses a different name. The InfoPack expressly refers to “Trusts” and “Public Law”. Trusts might cover Equity, and Public Law might cover Constitutional and Administrative Law. But it is not enough to assert this, and a syllabus is not enough.
You must get your college or university to verify in writing that the courses you completed covered Equity or Constitutional and Administrative Law, as the case may be. (See OLQE 2022 InfoPack, page 30).
If you are unable to get such verification, the Law Society of Hong Kong may decide you are not eligible to sit the OLQE. You would have to show that you have had practical experience in the relevant subjects, and that can be very difficult for most lawyers.
Plainly you will need to contact your alma mater immediately if you face this kind of problem.
[Please note that lawyers admitted in a non-common law jurisdiction (i.e. non-common lawyers) do not have to comply with paragraphs 12A or 12B. Unless exempted, non-common lawyers have to take and pass an oral examination in Principles of Common Law (Head V)]