The University of Law Speaker Series

On 30th November 2020, The University of Law hosted a talk, as part of the Speaker Series, which was presented by Sharon Ser and Rita Ku of Withersworldwide.

Sharon is a Partner in the divorce and family team. She has been in Hong Kong for over 30 years and has worked on some of the most interesting family cases in the region. She focuses mainly on family matters and international divorce cases involving jurisdiction arguments and financial issues and it is some of these cases that were discussed during the talk.

Rita has practiced in Hong Kong for over 15 years, with many of her cases being very high profile and cross border cases, particularly with the PRC, such as ML v YJ [2010] HKEC 1924, which went to the Court of Final Appeal. This case changed the law in Hong Kong in respect of a party’s ability to apply for financial provision following a foreign decree.

Both lawyers shared what motivated them to enter the legal profession, the challenges they’ve faced, the interesting legal issues of jurisdiction, financial provision and recognizing contribution that is not financial, how children and parents from unmarried relationships fare in HK and many more family law issues facing their clients and the courts.

They shared how they entered the profession and how they entered into family law specifically, with some wonderful anecdotes which brought the talk to life as well as giving the participants a good insight into the role and importance of a family lawyer.

They both spoke about a number of cases which changed the law in Hong Kong. Sharon touched on White v White [2001] 1 AC 596, which had a major impact on the rights of spouses. and discussed further the case of LKW v DD (2010) which changed the law in HK, giving equal rights to both spouses. Throughout this case the HK court threw out the principle of “reasonable requirements” and instead used the new approach, as adopted through White v White of “equality of division”

Rita then talked about ML v YJ [2010] HKEC 1924 , which went to the Court of Final Appeal. This was a ground-breaking case, that changed the law in Hong Kong, in respect of a party’s ability to apply for financial provision, following a foreign decree.

They went on to discuss further cases giving greater insights into their work as a family lawyer and discussed some other fascinating cases, the last being a very recent decision which provided that a mistress of a deceased person could be entitled to a claim on the deceased’s estate to pay for legal fees when disputing their claims on an inheritance.

They also discussed the changes in the past year due to COVID-19 and how it has impacted the practice and the way lawyers conduct hearings and work on a daily basis. At the end they also gave some very helpful tips to the participants on the key elements on being a good family lawyer.

The talk was captivating and very enjoyable. Look out for the next in the speaker series in February 2021.

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