Dear Fellow Members:
On behalf of the Council and the Committee members, I take pleasure in reporting the activities of our Association (“SAMLAW”) for the past year of activities. We have been established for more than five years now and reaching the milestone of 1000 members consisting of both solicitors and barristers. We are pleased to provide members with increased services for your professional needs and development.
A. Taxation Hourly Rate
We are pleased to inform you the results of all the hard work done to conduct a “Survey on the Need to Increase Hourly Rates on Party and Party Taxation” in 2014 which was a response to the taxation hourly rate not being increased since 1997.
About 300 interviewees have completed the survey. From the results, 86.41% of the interviewees expressed that the existing hourly rates allowed on party and party taxation does not reflect on the actual costs reasonably incurred by solicitors and their staff. 41.46% of the interviewees opined that the existing hourly rates should increase 10%. 79.44% of the interviewees urged for the need to set different hourly rates for solicitors over 10 years of practice.
In the past few years, we have been urging the Judiciary and Secretary for Justice for an increase of taxation hourly rates. At last, we are pleased that the taxation hourly rates have increased by the Judiciary with effect from 1 January 2018.
B. High Court Jurisdiction
In late 2017, it was announced that the revision of the civil jurisdictional limit of the District Court is underway which will triple from the current limit of HK$1 million to HK$3 million. The goal of the increase is purported to be for the reduction of workload of the High Court with the lower valued cases being heard at the District Court level. Although initially the change was expected to take effect this year, the bill has yet to be submitted as scheduled.
C. Court’s Security
On 10 May 2017, in light of an assault occurring in the Family Court involving a knife, we sent a letter to the Chief Justice raising our concerns regarding the current lack of security measures in place to ensure a safe working environment is provided in the courts of all level. We highlighted that other jurisdictions including Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States all have entry security screening measures in place including, but not limited to, metal detectors, x-ray scanners, handheld screening wand, a duress alarm and/or CCTV cameras. They also have a list of prohibited items which are not allowed inside the court buildings and must be left at the security counters.
A reply was received in July from the judiciary stating that enhanced security measures are in place which consists of inspections of all court users for prohibited objects by their security staff.
Furthermore, it has come to our attention that starting from 31 January 2018, enhanced security measures would be in placed to ensure the safety of all judges, staff and court users in the High Court building. Archway metal detectors will be installed and bag inspections will be conducted for court users on G/F. Security screening will be carried out on the ground floor for those who wish to go to any floors from 1/F to 14/F. Security arrangements will be done at the LG4/F only for those entering into the courtrooms for LG4/F. Four of the public lifts will now only shuttle from G/F to 14/F while the remaining two will travel between LG4/F and G/F. Therefore, any users intending to take the lift from LG4/F to the court rooms will now have to first travel to G/F and be subject to the security checks before proceeding to the courtrooms.
The time in which screening will be carried out is between 7:45am to 6pm on weekdays and 7:45 to 1pm on Saturdays. Screenings will also be arranged for urgent court hearings held outside normal court hours. A dedicated lane will be assigned to barristers, solicitors or legal representatives in which any user of this dedicated lane must show their membership cards issued by the respective associations.
Finally, no lighters, scissors, cutters, screwdrivers or umbrellas are allowed as lockers will be provided to court users on the G/F to facilitate the storage of these items.
D. The Belt and Road and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Region
Under the Belt and Road initiative, we have undertaken several trips to The Mainland to meet up with local lawyer associations and governmental bodies and signed cooperation agreements with them.
In mid-July 2016, our members ventured to the Hunan Province where our delegation met up and signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Hunan Lawyers Association and Changsha Arbitration Commission respectively.
In mid-August 2016, our members attended a forum held in Zhengzhou, Henan where our delegation, led by Maggie Chan, met up and signed a cooperation agreement with dignitaries from the Henan Lawyers Association and Zhengzhou Arbitration Commission. Zhao Jincai, Vice Governor of the Henan Province People’s Government, Rimsky Yuen SC, then Secretary for Justice of the Hong Kong SAR and Wang Zhenmin, legal chief of the China Liaison Office, were witnesses to this ground breaking occasion.
Our members also flew up to Beijing in February 2017. In this trip, our members visited the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China as well as attended meetings with Mr. Li Fei (李飛), Chairman of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee, Mr. Huang Liuquan (黃柳權), the Vice-Minister of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of The State Council, The P.R.C. (港澳辦) and representatives of All China Lawyers Association (中華全國律師協會).
We will continue to discover more business opportunities to cooperate for our Hong Kong lawyers in the Mainland China.
The Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong