1. What are the main differences between Solicitors and Barristers?
The legal profession in Hong Kong is divided into two distinct branches - barristers (often referred to as "counsel") and solicitors.
Solicitors have limited rights of audience before the courts (e.g. they are not allowed to represent their clients to cross-examine witnesses in the High Court or to give oral submissions in the Court of Final Appeal; they will soon be allowed to conduct trials in the High Court after the Law Society has finalized the ground rules). For litigation, solicitors can either (i) represent clients in court hearings or (ii) take instructions from clients and then instruct barristers to represent clients in court (this is an essential procedure if the cases are heard at the High Court or the Court of Final Appeal). Other than litigation, solicitors can also handle documentation files such as the drafting of contracts, preparing the property sale & purchase agreements or wills, etc. They can also act as legal advisors for their clients.
Barristers have unlimited rights of audience in all courts (including the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal). They specialize in litigation and giving oral submission in court hearings on behalf of their clients. Similar to solicitors, barristers can also draft legal documents or give legal advice to their clients.
Lawyers practising as barristers are not, at the same time, allowed to practise as solicitors (and vice versa).
Although the majority of solicitors and barristers are engaged in private practice, some of them work in the legal departments of some Government bodies or commercial corporations, or engaged in teaching and research at one of the Hong Kong's tertiary institutions.
The Bar Council of the Hong Kong Bar Association, which is elected annually, is the governing body for barristers. The Law Society of Hong Kong is the governing body for solicitors and its elected council has wide responsibilities for maintaining the professional and ethical standards of this profession. Some solicitors are also admitted to practise as notaries public in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Society of Notaries is the governing body for notaries public, and the Chief Justice is the appointing authority for Hong Kong notaries.