My Hong Kong Law Practice Pet Peeve – Having My Signature Witnessed

What I have noticed as I continue to learn the ins and outs of Hong Kong litigation practice is that the Commonwealth system is incredibly old-fashioned and redundant.  I know I am not alone in my opinion.  There are too many forms and formalities for me to keep up, and worse, all the different civil procedure or practice rules are in different places (you’ve got your High Court Ordinance, the Hong Kong Civil Procedure, and then there’s the Practice Directions!).  Things frequently are amended here without completely changes to other referring documents, so no one ever knows what to do.

But my number one pet peeve about Hong Kong practice is having to have my signature witnessed for every affirmation I affirm to.  What this means is that for every supporting affirmation (i.e., motion) I make, I need to have my secretary make an appointment with one of the friendly law firms who have agreed to assist us in witnessing affirmations, go over there, and present my ID and sign my name before another solicitor.

This is not only a waste of time for me, and an annoying inconvenience that interrupts the flow of my litigation mood, but it is also an annoying inconvenience to the poor solicitors who agree to assist us!

A lawyer already gives an oath or affirmation swearing to uphold the law to the highest standard before the Court, as they do in other jurisdictions.  We don’t need to prove that we are really signing a document!  This is the very case with affirmations in the US.

Indeed, in the US that is the very point of an “affirmation.”  An affirmation is different from an affidavit in NY in that it is signed by one of the exempt parties (typically certain professionals, like lawyers) who needn’t have their signature verified by a third party.  An affidavit, however, is one that would require a notary.

In Hong Kong, an affidavit is an oath of truth sworn to God, and an affirmation is for those who would rather not make any religious pledge.  This distinction was at first quite jarring for me, as there doesn’t seem to be this forthright assertion of religion in the US (though I would still stand by the US as being very religious).

In any case, I pray that this silly practice be ended, and lawyers be allowed to go on with their work and day without this needless interruption! I suppose the saving grace in Hong Kong with respect to this practice is that most law firms are just a matter of taking an elevator to another floor within the same building, since they tend to be all concentrated in the Landmark, Alexandra House, Prince’s Building, Exchange Square/IFC or else in Admiralty at Pacific Place, Queensway, and the Lippo Center.

Please let me sign my own affirmations on my own!


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