Tag Archives: OLQE

OLQE Update

And it’s official – the 2015 OLQE will now include a sixth head on the Basic Law (i.e., Hong Kong constitutional law).  So if you were hoping to get away with not having to study for this, then I’m sorry!



Congratulations to Everyone Who Passed the 2013 OLQE!

Results apparently were released yesterday – AND by e-mail! Huzzah! Welcome to the 21st Century Law Society!  For those of you who passed – congrats.  For those of you who may be retaking the exam, I salute you for your tenacity.  It is not an easy thing to do, especially while working, and possibly also taking care of a family, etc.

Insofar as my experience has been as a Hong Kong solicitor from the US – it has been extremely rewarding and educational.  For this I am lucky. It definitely is not the case for all lawyers, whether from HK, the US, or both.


Everyone (Taking the 2013 OLQE) Relax – There Will Be NO Head VI!

This just in – there will be NO Head VI on Hong Kong Constitutional Law in this year’s OLQE! Below I quote the Law Society’s own words:

The proposed amendments to the Overseas Lawyers (Qualification for Admission) Rules including the addition of a new written Head of “Hong Kong Constitutional Law” have been submitted to the Chief Justice for his final approval with an intention that they will come into effect in 2014. After the Chief Justice has granted his final approval, the proposed amendments will be gazetted and tabled for consideration by the Legislative Council followed by the a vetting procedure. Their implementation date will depend on the progress of the legislative amendment procedure. These amendments may affect the 2014 Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination but not the 2013 Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination.

So if you were lazing about with your applications or dilly dallying about whether to take it this year or another, and have no valid reason (e.g., waiting for 5 years’ experience) to wait, take it now! But note, still no definitive word on 2014’s OLQE, though my guess is that it WILL change, because Hong Kong Constitutional Law issues have become rather important in recent years.  My sense is that the Hong Kong government will want its solicitors to understand when the PRC can and cannot review a Hong Kong legal decision according to the Basic Law.

A Word on OLQE Exemptions

I received a comment on a prior post about Head IV Exemptions from NN, asking:

Hi, I am also coming from a civil law jurisdiction and I found some problems in passing Head IV. Next year I will try to apply for the exemption. Can I ask to you and JG to be kind enough to publish a template of the exemption letter and of the letters of reference? it might be a very valuable precedent!
thanks in advance and best regards.

I dug out my old exemption letter and unfortunately it isn’t the best precedent.  Basically I reiterated my general experience and then referred to some proof in either my letters of recommendation or some CLE (Continuing Legal Education) course certificates, which I also attached.

Another reader named JG had commented on his experience seeking exemptions and he wrote:

I drafted my exemption letter like a pleading — first, I’m a common law lawyer, second I’ve got more than 5 years experience and request Head II and V exemptions, etc., with citation to the various supporting documents.

I agree ethics isn’t a high threshold for most US attorneys. I referred to my (one) law school legal ethics course, my MPRE pass, my state bar’s legal ethics rules, and the continuing education requirement including specific courses taken. I also cited some personal experience from law school which involved ethics issues.

I think this “pleading” style writing (numbered paragraphs, headers, etc.) is very useful advice.  You just want to spell things out as clearly as you can and then cite to support, where possible, which you can attach in an exhibit.

My applications for exemptions may have been more effective had I done so.  Remember, I did not get all the exemptions – of the two I needed to make a special application on, I only got out of the Head IV exam.  And while I loathed having to study for Head III, I am grateful for having taken it, because I learned a lot of useful principles that I apply to my job today.  Not only that, but I think some of my preparations for the Companies Head led me to learn useful things that came in handy in my interview for my present job, which I do believe got me through the door – so no regrets there.  (Now if I hadn’t passed, that would be another story!).

Hope this advice helps, NN! Good luck and keep us posted!

There’s No Such Thing as a Shortcut – You Asked I’m Answering (Part 3 – final)

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo for me (it appears some people choose any month to NaBloPoMo – but November is it for me), and fittingly, I finally finish this post on my “Shortcut” series.   Following from Part 2 of this long question, it continues:

3. some say that its 2 years while some say its 3 years of working experience as a foreign lawyer in hk before i could start taking the QLQE , may i know which is true?

I recently re-checked the Law Society’s rules and it is still 2 years’ of work experience required before a foreign lawyer is eligible to take the OLQE.

4. i am also rather confused if i can only work as a foreign legal consultant or i can work as a foreign lawyer in hk after applying to be a FRL?

You must must MUST be a properly registered foreign lawyer in Hong Kong if you want that legal experience to count towards your application fo rthe OLQE – whether it is to get the 2 years to become eligible to take the exam of the 5 years needed for certain exemptions.  If you are a foreign legal consultant, your time will NOT count!

5. would it be hard for me to obtain a job in hk if i could pass the NY bar exam successfully ? is the only job i can find available in some city/ international law firm? i am worried they may not consider me as i do not hv good llb result

If you’re talking about a job as a registered foreign lawyer in Hong Kong with NY bar admissions, chances are you will only be able to work at firms that would desire that admission – and yes, that would be international firms (whether US firms or the British “city firms” you refer to).  These firms are very competitive and typically recruit from the very best, and as an NQ (newly qualified) your NY admissions alone will not be enough to get you a job.  You will absolutely have to have top grades, if no other relevant work experience. 

Local firms will have no use for you as a NY qualified lawyer (though in my previous post, I fear you may not even be able to take the NY bar exam on the qualifications you’ve described to me so far).   Also, they will need to have someone who is also NY qualified to supervise you, since you are under 2 PQE, and at most local firms, there are no NY qualified lawyers.

thank you so so so so much for taking the time to answer these questions. im really grateful that i can benefit from the information at your site!!!!

hv a nice day, looking forwards to your reply =]

a lost bella

I feel terrible because my reply does not inspire much confidence I’m afraid.  I also feel terrible, again, for answering so late.

But then there was another follow-up question:

  • sorry but last question, must i practice in the states for some time before i can come back to hk to apply for QLQE? if so, is there any way to waive this requirement? thanks so much

    As I mentioned at the top of this post, you need to have two years’ experience in the practice of foreign law to be eligible to take the OLQE.  You can theoretically get that in Hong Kong, though it is not easy to do so, but these are the rules and there is no waiver.

    The whole point in offering this alternative method of admissions for Hong Kogn solicitors is to recognize that experienced overseas lawyers should not need to start from scratch — so they absolutely need experience in the first place.  Two years is probably the requirement because by the “normal” route, a two year training contract is required before the motion is made for admission, so in a sense, this experience requirement sort of equalizes the inexperienced to-be lawyers with the foreign lawyers.

    And once again, I just have to conclude that there’s no such thing as a shortcut – especially when it comes to becoming a lawyer in Hong Kong.  It can be a wonderful, fulfilling profession, as I have happily found in the 1+ years I’ve been qualified and practicing Hong Kong law, but it is not easy to get here.

There’s No Such Thing as a Shortcut – Addendum

I know I said the last post under this title was the last of them, but this addendum is related.  Some time ago, I was asked by a friend (more an acquaintance) to help with his friend’s daughter, a newly qualified NY lawyer with some career advice here in HK.

I did not know much about this young lady, but she sent me a resume in advance.  She got her law education in Australia and then went onto take and pass the NY Bar Exam.  She also was working on getting some other certifications in financial accounting that are not terribly easy too – so clearly she is an expert on test-taking.

Unfortunately, she had very limited work experience in the legal world.  She had two short internships, as I recall, one at a major Chinese law firm, but other than that – nothing.  She was a HKer but not interested in going through the process I described (the conversion exams, PCLL, and training contract).  But without 2 years’ experience, she would not be able to take the OLQE. 

She asked if I could somehow manage to give her a “job” at my firm, where she did not need a salary for the two years so that she could get “experience.”

I immediately expressed skepticism.  At the time I did not think my firm was set up for any inexperienced employees (this was at my last job, where we were ourselves very new to Hong Kong), and it would have been hard to give work to someone like her.  Also, when a foreign lawyer with under 2 year’s experience is registered to work in HK, she needs to have someone take a special undertaking to supervise her work.  It’s just a technicality that isn’t so hard, but still something to consider.

Finally, I told her that even if she gets those two yeras of so-called experience from us, takes and passes the OLQE, finding a “real” job might be really tough without more substantive experience.  Even if she learned a lot from us, the firm only did US litigation – and that might not be very useful for a very junior lawyer in Hong Kong.

I strove to advise her that there’s no such thing as a shortcut, and that it was in her best interest to go through with the hard work to get the good experience she would need to become competitive, otherwise, all her test-taking really was still all a waste! She also had youth to her advantage, and from the sounds of it, did not need to worry about money – so why not?

She didn’t seem to like my advice and moved on.  Based on my educated guess, she came from money and connections that could potentially find someone else to give her what she wanted.  Wherever she is, I wish her the best, but I think that when it comes to a career in law, no matter which jurisdiction you are in, hard work and passion are unavoidably necessary ingredients.


There’s No Such Thing as a Shortcut (Part 3 – and the last part)

This is the last part of my series on the “normal” qualifying route to become a solicitor in Hong Kong.  You can go back to Parts 1 and 2 for the prior steps, but here we are in Step 3 – which is essentially the last step.

Step 3.  The  Training Contract

After the schooling (or conversions), and a year of “practical” courses in the PCLL, it’s time to start your training contract with a law firm.  This prerequisite is a 2-year term, generally with 4×6-month rotations in different departments.  The firm must be able to provide mixed capabilities, so you cannot train at a firm that only specializes in one practice. 

Getting the Contract. This actually could technically be Step 2, or maybe 1.5  because you have to procure your training contract before you complete your PCLL, and therefore when you apply in your last year of law school (or college), you’re looking for a seat two years out.

The challenge in that is that you don’t know anything about law firms – probably not unlike 2nd year JD students, and the only source of information is the internet, word of mouth, and if you are based in HK at the time, the HK Law Fair.  There is no EIW, or Early Interview Week, where you at least go through a process of meeting some faces to the law firm (though one can easily argue how superficial and artificial that is).  If you are studying outside of HK, you are at a further disadvantage.  Hopefully you’ve gotten yourself an internship or two during your summer or winter break (these are usually only a few weeks long) so that you can get to know some people at the firm, though admittedly your work is really elementary and hardly realistic.

But what makes this process really tough is that when you choose a training contract, you’re usually not given much time to accept the offer.  A firm will let you know that they’ve accepted your application, but it’s not uncommon to give you only a few days’ notice to accept – leaving you little to no room to await any other potential offers. It really becomes a game of first come first serve (for both the law students and the firms vying for the best students), and generally students will accept the first offer they get, or potentially end up with none!

Even tougher – there aren’t that many training contracts out there, truth be told.  I work at one of HK’s biggest firms (only a handful have ~100 lawyers), yet they traditionally only have a class of about 8 trainees! Therefore, it isn’t uncommon for some firms to have as few as just ONE trainee per class!

The Contract. Life as a trainee is hard work, though apparently better than in the olden days (where my boss complained of the countless hours of gruntwork he did).  But a trainee’s life is not that different from a first year associate, really – except you aren’t paid a fabulous sum as you are in the US. You are mainly doing legal research and other junior grunt work, but since rotations are only 6 months, you can only do so much.

But in each 6-month rotation you’ve got to do your best so shine.  Getting an offer after your rotations is not guaranteed.  Like with US Summer Associate positions, while chances are high that you will get an offer, it’s not guaranteed, especially in poor economies. 

Somewhere about 1.5 years into your contract you will get an offer from one of the groups you rotated in – even before you finish your last or last two rotations (which can cause you to miss out on working in a practice area or group that really suits you better), and you really need to accept asap as well (because if you don’t they may move on and find another just as eager to say yes right away).

Some firms make offers on a committee basis, and some make the decision no a per partner basis – so if you are so lucky to have worked with a partner who has a need for a junior, then that is how you will get your offer! It’s all very tricky, in the end, I am told.

So assuming you’ve made it through your two year training contract and got an offer, then all that’s left is the paperwork and admissions ceremony – which is where the OLQE passers meet up with the trainees.

So you see – I was a fool to complain about the OLQE and its arduous process. It is WAY easier to take a few exams than go through all that!!