Due to the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the economy, according to the published government data, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 6.1% for 2020 as a whole, the sharpest annual decline on record. The high uncertainty associated with the pandemic and other risk factors like the evolving China-US relations and geopolitical tensions have dampened business plans and indirectly impacted recruitment strategy of employers who are more likely to adopt a prudent approach of “wait and see”, to hold off any expansion plans and to cut costs as much as possible as a risk management measure.
Comparing the profile statistics of our profession in 2019 and 2020, one category that displayed a marked decrease was the number of trainee solicitors. It has dropped by 10.5% from 1,219 in 2019 to 1,091 in 2020.
While the employers’ prudence in their hiring plan is understandable in view of the economic uncertainty on the impact of the legal service market, the resulting contraction of recruitment of trainee solicitors in law firms may have the unintended consequences of losing legal talent to other sectors and of the inability of the legal sector to catch up with the required manpower resources when the market picks up in due course.
To relieve the unemployment situation due to the outbreak of the pandemic, the Government has earmarked $6 billion under the Anti-epidemic Fund 2.0 (“AEF 2.0”) to create jobs in the public and private sectors for people of different skill sets and academic qualifications. The Law Society is in full support of the Government’s job creation initiatives. We are pleased to have obtained approval for funding under AEF 2.0 for implementation of the Legal Talent Recruitment Scheme (Trainee Solicitors) (“Scheme”).
The Scheme aims to provide incentives for law firms to create new job openings to improve the employment situation that has been adversely affected by the outbreak of COVID-19. In addition to creating new jobs, the Scheme also aims at ensuring the sustainable development of the legal sector in the long term by maintaining sufficient opportunities for legal professionals to work in the legal sector and to continue to gain relevant experience notwithstanding the difficulties and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic.
Under the Scheme, a Hong Kong law firm that fulfils the eligibility criteria can apply for a specified amount of monthly salary subsidy for one job opening for a trainee solicitor position for up to 12 months. To fulfil the need to nurture more legal talent that supports Hong Kong’s status as an international legal hub and a centre for dispute resolution services, an applicant firm must also show that its practice areas and development strategy align with the overall development direction set for Hong Kong.
As the Scheme is to encourage the creation of new jobs, an application for salary subsidy must be for a new headcount. It will be considered a new headcount if a new trainee solicitor contract of two years is entered into during the application period, and the date of the commencement of the trainee solicitor contract falls not more than two months from the expiry of the application period of the Scheme.
The application period is for four months from 5 July to 5 November. Applications will be processed on a rolling basis and the total number of new job openings to be funded under the Scheme is capped at 130. Approval of an application is subject to successful registration of the relevant trainee solicitor contract by the Law Society and payment of the subsidy is on a reimbursement basis.
The application form with the guidance notes in relation to the Scheme is posted on the Law Society website.
President of the Law Society and the Secretary for Justice after the signing of the MOU with respect to the Legal Talent Recruitment Scheme (Trainee Solicitors)
Monthly Statistics on the Profession
(updated as of 31 May 2021):
|Members (with or without Practising Certificate)||12,432|
|Members with Practising Certificate||
10,867(out of whom 7,984 (73%) are in private practice)
|Registered Foreign Lawyers||
(from 34 jurisdictions)
|Hong Kong Law Firms||
947 (48% are sole proprietorships and 41% are firms with 2 to 5 partners, 50 are limited liability partnerships formed pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Ordinance)
|Registered Foreign Law Firms||
86 (from 22 jurisdictions, 15 are limited liability partnerships formed pursuant to the Legal Practitioners Ordinance)
|Civil Celebrants of Marriages||2,195|
|Reverse Mortgage Counsellors||448|
78 (72 in civil proceedings, 6 in criminal proceedings)
|Registered Associations between Hong Kong law firms and registered foreign law firms (including Mainland law firms)||37|