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Inauguration of the Academy

Speech by the Hon Wong Yan Lung, SC, JP Secretary for Justice
at the Inauguration Dinner of the Academy of Law on 23 October 2008
 

Chief Justice, Justice Kennedy, Lester, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to this dinner to celebrate the inauguration of the Academy of Law, and for the opportunity to say a few words.

Challenging times and changing legal landscape

These are indeed very challenging times. For those of you who don’t know, the Hang Seng Index has dropped below 14,000. The financial tsunami has hit all shores around the globe, resulting in a seismic shift in the international financial landscape.

But even before the recent global financial melt-down, the landscape of legal services has already been undergoing significant changes. The China factor, the technological advancement and globalization, which present us with both opportunities and competition, are compelling the legal profession to diversify and extend its reach to new areas of practice, as well as to specialize and hone their skills in established ones.

As mentioned by the President, the legal landscape in Hong Kong is rapidly changing as well. There is the imminent implementation of the Civil Justice Reform which aims at strengthening case management, simplifying procedures, reducing costs and promoting greater use of alternative dispute resolution.

All legal professionals, including lawyers in my own department, are busy gearing up for the changes ahead. The setting up of the Academy is therefore most timely and significant as I understand it will be the Law Society’s flagship for professional training and development.

In this connection, I would like to particularly register my gratitude to the Law Society for your support in the Working Group on Mediation.

Apart from the CJR and mediation, I believe the Academy can further strengthen the capacity of the local legal profession for international arbitration. The Arbitration Ordinance will be amended next year to streamline local arbitration with the UNCITRAL Model Law. The ICC International Court of Arbitration will be setting up its first Secretariat branch in Hong Kong next month.

Then there is also the advocacy training. Following the recommendations made in the Report of the Working Party on Solicitors’ Rights of Audience, my department aims to introduce a Bill to enable solicitors experienced in advocacy work to gain higher rights of audience within this legislative year.

Legal education for the public

Another important mission of the Academy is to raise public awareness of the rule of law and to enhance public interest in the learning of law. This is indeed admirable and crucial. As Plato said, “Justice in the life and conduct of the State was possible only if first it resided in the heart and souls of the citizens”.

The Law Society has been doing very good work in this connection under the Law Week programme. I understand your plan is to strengthen those services for the community with enhanced coordination and more systematic delivery. I hope that the Council’s admirable initiatives will be met by overwhelming support of your members.

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen, to thrive at challenging times like these requires not only the capacity to adapt to changes, but also the ability to see beyond the current state of play, to identify the way forward and to get equipped accordingly.

I congratulate you Lester and the Law Society on your prescience in establishing the Academy of Law at this point in time, and wish the Academy great success in accomplishing its important missions.

Thank you.

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