Posted by: Sam Olsen | March 21, 2012

Called to the bar

Although Hong Kong may have reverted to the Motherland in 1997, many elements of British rule remain. One of course are the bars, with Stauntons, Yorkshire Pudding, and Peak Cafe all reflecting a somewhat non-Chinese nomenclature.

Another type of English bar is also extant, namely the legal bar. A news article the other day reported that the number of foreign lawyers here have doubled over the last few years, spurred by Hong Kong’s booming economy and its role as the gateway to China. Being a common law territory makes it easier for Brits, Americans and Antipodeans to make the move, which they do in droves, but also means that there is ‘calling to the bar’, a “legal term in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party”.

The other day I was invited to the calling to the bar ceremony of a friend here, and I might as well have been in Birmingham or Manchester. The judge presiding was a rather imposing yet witty woman who obviously took the ceremony very seriously. Dozens of friends and family choked the courtroom, with dozens more stuck outside watching proceedings on TV. It was all rather fun.

Two barristers were being sworn in (including our pal Sid, a former Honourable Artillery Company soldier and private banker) and six solicitors. Seven were Chinese, although two of these were American and one from Shanghai. And although some of their English wasn’t the best I had ever heard, the fact that they had passed all their exams meant that they must have been superbly qualified. Each of the lawyers was introduced to the judge by their master, which gave them the chance to show off a little about their proteges. Not all of it was especially flattering, like the girl who was described as being a control-freak, and the other who was obviously so boring that the master spent more time talking about himself. But overall, the families and friends were all seemingly satisfied by the speeches. The judge finished the ceremony with a short talk – the only part of the morning that was translated into Cantonese too – about how important their positions would be from now on. A fine way to cap off a rather interesting morning.

Not Sid's real hair



  1. That’s my workplace! Not particularly inspiring, as workplaces go. Full of interesting jibber-jabber though. That is the shiniest collar I’ve ever seen.

    • Shiny collars ahoy!

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