Monthly Archives: May 2012

A True Milestone Achieved in Hong Kong!

Dear Readers, I did not completely forget to write in this space — I’ve just been a little busy is all… With what, you ask? Accomplishing a huge lifetime achievement is what!

As I believe I’ve already made evident, I am into my third decade of living.  One would hope by that point in life that certain basics in life have been did and done, like your first paycheck, a first kiss, travelling solo.  I’d done all that, but alas, for me, there was one giant gaping hole which had plagued me for a long time — that was my inability to swim!

It’s not uncommon for a born and bred New Yorker to not know how to swim, however.  I would say there are 3 basic “life skills” that many NYers lack — that’s riding a bicycle, driving, and swimming.  I was proud to have 2 of 3 down, but not knowing how to swim really did bother me.  I probably could do without the first two (I’d just be heavily reliant on my Metrocard), but swim is a life skill that could indeed save your life!

Mom had put me through two rounds of Pollywog at the YMCA, and both times, my sister and I failed.  I didn’t feel all that guilty.  Truth be told, it was just a horrible place to try to learn.  I was already pretty far along in adolescence, so being jammed into a crowded pool with a bunch of 9-11 year olds, and presumably pee water, was not encouraging. 

Then in college, I was required to at least attempt to learn in a PE class, if not pass a swim test.  Where the baseball coach was teaching the class out of duty rather than desire, never even stepping foot in the pool, I could hardly figure it out, and of course failed to learn again (though somehow that counted as a “pass” for the purposes of the class).

Fast forward another 10 or so years, and I’m in Hong Kong, trying to learn at a class offered for free by some very well-meaning volunteers.  I was very hopefuly this time that my efforts would pay off with such patient teachers, but alas, nothing free lasts forever, and the class was quickly ended.  I tried to look into private lessons, but I suppose my hate for water sports always got in the way. 

I also admit, that when I was roughing out with attempt after failed attempt to secure a meaningful job, I did promise myself that if there was one thing I should accomplish before leaving Hong Kong — it was to learn to swim!

And here we are in 2012 – when the Law Society offered some very inexpensive lessons at roughly $8 a class, I decided I should just try again.  What I found in 7 x 1-hour lessons was the breast stroke, and a lot less loathing for water!

 The day I was finally able to swim across the 25 m pool, I was smiling so much and beaming with so much joy, I found it so hard not to feel happiness! It was a real accomplishment to finally attain this potentially life-saving skill.

I told the instructor that it wasn’t me who should be proud, but really her! I really am grateful for all her patience and time.  Learning to swim as an adult is no easy feat, but I am certain teaching an adult to swim is much harder!

So now that that’s done, what can I do next to top that??

Learning Civil Procedure Makes Me Feel Like an Alien

In US law practice (as a litigator at least), you do get exposed to different state jurisdictions and might need to have a glance at that jurisdiction’s civil procedure rules, but it is more often similar than not, or you are otherwise just dealing with the Federal Rules, so it’s never too disorienting.  Plus, coming from New York, most of my cases, even if it involved out-of-state parties, would require New York law contractually anyway.  However, as I have been learning the rules of civil procedure in Hong Kong, I find myself feeling like an alien who has come to another planet.  The over-arching ideas are the same (e.g., service of process, statutes of limitations, pleadings), but then the vocabulary used to describe these ideas and the methods themselves can be so different, I’m not even sure what’s going on, despite having practiced law for enough years!

I would hear words thrown around that seem familiar, like “writ” and “summons”, but then find they are a bit more complicated or nuanced than I realized.  I am constantly asking my office mate questions, but find myself unable to communicate as I have no way of explaining these terms of law without using those words I’m used to — which he obviously doesn’t know!

Though I’ve been practicing Hong Kong law for the past 8+ nonths now, I haven’t had to bother with much procedure.  A lot of the work I do involves strategy and client communications, so my past experience is very easily applied.  But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of litigation, I found I was lost, and was grateful when a partner agreed to assign me a project involving an application to serve outside of the jurisdiction.

I think I’ve finally got it —

A writ is the equivalent of a summons in New York.  But be aware that there are apparently certain actions in Hong Kong that are initiated by originating summons.

A statement of claim = a complaint.

A summons is a notice of motion.  And the supporting affidavit to said summons is our motion.

Other idiosyncracies of Hong Kong practice? For a document to take effect, it has to be sealed by the court — i.e., this red stamp with the bauhinia flower is stamped onto it by the Court.  Not all documents need this (e.g., documents in evidence), but  for certain documents to take effect, e.g., the writ and orders, the court needs to stamp that red flower  or it means nothing.

Also, while Hong Kong has similar terms of statute of limitations, it seems that once a writ is issued, and an action number (what I’m more accustomed to calling an index number) is assigned, you are allowed 12 months before completing service — and even then you can make an application for more time.  That is definitely not the way it works in the US (your statute of limitations runs accordingly, and if the action isn’t started within that time, that’s it).

All these idiosyncracies might not seem like a big deal and yet they really feel like it.   As I navigate myself through learning terminology and these rules of procedure, I feel like a fish out of water or an alien on another planet.  There are lots of familiar things, and yet I feel so foreign.