Monthly Archives: September 2011

Anniversary Special – Time to Embark on Year 3!!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, especially as September is nearly over and September means anniversary time – I am officially in my third year of HK!

Year 2, not unlike year 1, brought in a lot of changes.  The biggest change was   my first full-time job in Hong Kong, which was also my return to full-time work  in almost two years.  I was lucky enough to join a start-up of sorts, opening the Asia branch office for a well-known New York-based litigation boutique.  It was exciting, being the first firm of its type in HK.

In the same year, I passed my qualification exams and became admitted as a HK solicitor (a topic that seems to draw in many of this blog’s readers!), which again changed my professional outlook in HK.

And personally, I’d been in a serious, long-term relationship over the course of the year,  another first for me in HK and a first for me in a long time generally!  So lots of changes!

My perspective on my purpose in HK, as well as life overall, was greatly impacted by these three things.  Going back to work, I realized how much I missed being a lawyer, oddly enough.  Being the firm’s inaugural year, there was a lot of administrative work to get through, and not necessarily as much in terms of legal work.  I was also brought on to wear a variety of hats, including a business development hat and a knowledge management hat.  It was a good way to get reacquainted with the industry, learn a few new things, and slowly remember how to do the usual law firm things — like accounting for every 6 minutes of my time.

From underneath all those hats, I yearned most to practice law again, which was the greatest lesson I took away from my year working again. Also, with my new dual qualification, I began to explore the job market in a new way.  In year 1, I was really grasping at just about anything, and was really more focused on informational interviewing and networking, but now I was able to narrow my focus with a much better idea of what I wanted.  I hope to spend some time in future posts about this experience.

This whole professional overload, while adapting socially to a very different kind of lifestyle with a new personal relationship, just spun me off in a whole new direction for year 3 of HK.  I tendered notice in September and am happy to say that I will be joining one of HK’s longer-established international law firms, well reputed in my practice area, where I am sure to put my newest qualification to good use!

For me, this is the most remarkable change — and I still cannot believe that just 2 years ago, I landed at HKG jobless, having just left an ailing US economy (which is still ailing), and am now about to join one of the best regarded firms in my practice area.   How is that? I guess those who encouraged me to stay in Hong Kong were right — it’s a place where you can take risks and do great things.  I took my chances with this brand new venture of HK, throwing myself fully into it, including efforts to get locally qualified, and I am grateful this firm decided to take its chances on me!

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CDotD: You Are NOT “Qualified” For Admission to the Singapore Bar, Unless…

This CDotD is highly related to my posts on overseas lawyer qualification as it is about another hot legal market — Singapore.  Indeed, I happened to randomly lunch with some American lawyers today, who recently arrived to Hong Kong.   They both recently encountered random e-mails from strangers who reached out to them, interested in practicing law in Hong Kong.

Having been successfully admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, I had some thoughts, obviously.  One lawyer asked if I’d taken the PCLL, and I immediately answered a hearty NO!  Though taking the OLQE is also no walk in the park, a full year taking the PCLL is definitely not the preferred option, plus, there would be no guarantee I’d get admitted into a PCLL program in Hong Kong. 

And for all its toughness, we all agreed that having Chinese language skills, particularly Mandarin, has become so critical in the legal market in Hong Kong at this stage, that fewer and fewer foreigners, especially junior lawyers, would likely find success here — at least not easily.

I offered that Singapore seems to be the hot spot for foreign lawyers these days.  I’d heard that throughout my own job searches, and may have considered it as a next frontier.  I also met a young law student who just got placed at a top law firm in Singapore as a newly qualified lawyer — that would definitely be close to impossible in Hong Kong.

On top of that, Singapore is known for its talent shortage, which has even led to some very interesting recent changes in its regulation of foreign lawyers and law firms.  In 2009, 6 foreign law firms were granted licenses to allow its Singapore-qualified lawyers to practice local corporate law for a period of 5 years.  More may be considered if the program is a success.

Another recent proposal from this year would allow a limited number of Queen’s Counsel or Senior Counsel (this is a super-title for highly accomplished barristers) to be allowed a sort of ad hoc admissions in Singapore as well.  This would be particularly interesting since litigation, of all things, has always been particularly sheltered in Singapore (not even foreign law firms in Joint Law Ventures could practice litigation).

But as my curiosity led me to dig around further, I found that it is nearly impossible to be considered a “qualified person” fit to apply for admission in Singapore! 

To be a “qualified person,” one must:

  1. Be a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident;
  2. Have received a degree from a list of very limited law programs in U.K., Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and the U.S. (+/- a few other routes, such as having qualified in U.K. via one of the qualifying exams, but only pre-1993 or something like that)
  3. Take a few exams
  4. Undergo a trainee program for a number of months!

Talk about onerous!  But check this — only FOUR U.S. law schools are considered good enough for Singapore — and they are Harvard, Columbia, NYU, and University of Michigan.  I’d like to say I still just might qualify, but I also had to have been in the top 70% of my class academically, and I’m honestly not sure if I was (though I guess chances are that I was).

INSANE!

So I guess for all the blood, sweat, and tears expended on the OLQE, I should be particularly grateful that I had it this (relatively) easy!

BTW, this info was not all that easy for me to find – so below you will find some of the links I consulted (but not all):

http://app2.mlaw.gov.sg/UsefulInfo/PracticeoflawinSingapore/AdmissiontotheSingaporeBar/tabid/262/Default.aspx

http://app2.mlaw.gov.sg/UsefulInfo/PracticeoflawinSingapore/AmIaQualifiedPerson/UnitedStates/tabid/505/Default.aspx

http://app2.mlaw.gov.sg/UsefulInfo/PracticeoflawinSingapore/AmIaQualifiedPerson/tabid/497/Default.aspx