Law & More: The Boase Cohen & Collins Podcast

Episode 40 - Victor Dawes SC

May 14, 2024 Niall Episode 40
Episode 40 - Victor Dawes SC
Law & More: The Boase Cohen & Collins Podcast
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Law & More: The Boase Cohen & Collins Podcast
Episode 40 - Victor Dawes SC
May 14, 2024 Episode 40

In this episode, we meet Senior Counsel Victor Dawes, who reflects on his upbringing in Hong Kong, his university days in London and his first steps in the legal profession as a young barrister. He also sheds light on the work of the Hong Kong Bar Association and his role as Chairman. Victor speaks with our Senior Partner Colin Cohen. Stay tuned. 

 00:31 Introduction to Victor Dawes
 01:11 Victor Dawes: Balancing Act Between Practice and Chairmanship
 02:07 Journey into Law: Victor's Background and Education
 03:02 The Path to Becoming a Barrister: Education and Early Career
 05:48 Pupillage and Early Professional Experiences
 12:57 Transition to Commercial Law and Joining Temple Chambers
 16:07 Insights into the Securities and Futures Commission Role
 18:25 Leading the Hong Kong Bar Association: Challenges and Achievements
 25:16 The Future of Legal Practice in Hong Kong
 28:52 Reflections and Future Directions for Victor Dawes
 30:12 Optimism for Hong Kong's Legal System and Future
 34:36 Closing Remarks 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we meet Senior Counsel Victor Dawes, who reflects on his upbringing in Hong Kong, his university days in London and his first steps in the legal profession as a young barrister. He also sheds light on the work of the Hong Kong Bar Association and his role as Chairman. Victor speaks with our Senior Partner Colin Cohen. Stay tuned. 

 00:31 Introduction to Victor Dawes
 01:11 Victor Dawes: Balancing Act Between Practice and Chairmanship
 02:07 Journey into Law: Victor's Background and Education
 03:02 The Path to Becoming a Barrister: Education and Early Career
 05:48 Pupillage and Early Professional Experiences
 12:57 Transition to Commercial Law and Joining Temple Chambers
 16:07 Insights into the Securities and Futures Commission Role
 18:25 Leading the Hong Kong Bar Association: Challenges and Achievements
 25:16 The Future of Legal Practice in Hong Kong
 28:52 Reflections and Future Directions for Victor Dawes
 30:12 Optimism for Hong Kong's Legal System and Future
 34:36 Closing Remarks 

[00:31:00] Colin: Welcome everybody. Today, I am delighted to be joined by Senior Counsel Victor Dawes.

Not only is Victor a very successful commercial litigator with substantial experience in a wide range of finance, banking, corporate disputes, he's also non executive director of the Securities and Futures Commission and occasionally he sits as a high court judge as a deputy.

However, he is perhaps most familiar to the public as chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association. Meaning he is often asked by the media for his views on a range of high profile legal matters. Victor, welcome to Law More. And as I always ask my guests, what's been keeping you busy recently?

[00:31:45] Victor: Well, thank you very much, Colin.

It is a privilege to speak at this podcast. Recently, I was the chairman of the Bar in Hong Kong. One of the issues we've had is you also have to practice. So, unlike my counterpart in the UK, it is a full time job.

The tradition in the Hong Kong Bar is that the chairman serves usually a term of two years. In my case, I'm doing a third term. You try to keep your practice alive. So to juggle between the two is not easy. So recently I have finished a rather long trial in March. Now I'm trying to focus on picking up on the works of the Bar.

We actually have quite a number of trips planned, so I'm basically preparing for the three or four trips that is planned for the next few months.

[00:32:33] Colin: Wow, sounds like a very exciting roadshow. Anyway, let's go back in time a little bit. Tell us a little bit about your background. What got you into law? I mean, your early education, your early days. I'm interested.

[00:32:44] Victor: I think I got into law like some of my contemporaries by way of elimination, really. But if I want to clock back a bit I was brought up in, I think, what we can describe as a Typical middle class Hong Kong family. My dad had a electronics business that dad takes him to the mainland from time to time, but he's based here.

My mother had ran two businesses, had one sister, and the four of us was a very happy family. The typical Hong Kong family, I would say. So I was brought up in New Territories, so I spent my childhood years in Taipo. Went to a school in Taipo. Subsequently, I did IB at a school called United World College.

[00:33:25] Colin: I'm familiar with that school. Many of our guests have been to that school.

[00:33:29] Victor: is a nice coincidence. And then I went off to the LSE in London to study law.

[00:33:34] Colin: What took you to the LSE? I mean, how did that all come about?

[00:33:37] Victor: It was an interesting school. I mean, I wasn't the most diligent student in my secondary years. So the idea that I could go to a good law school. I think it's kind of surprised my parents but I think just before my university years. I did give some thoughts to what I should do as a living.

And I think as a very argumentative kid, quite a few people say you may want to consider being a Barrister. So, I actually went to law school with joining the Bar in mind. Which was rare in those days. I can't say I was not influenced by the many legal dramas that I've watched as a kid.

And coincidentally when I actually speak to many of my counterparts and my friends in Mainland China, you'll be surprised to find out that the number of lawyers who went into law because they watch Hong Kong legal dramas, is actually shocking. 

[00:34:28] Colin: And you know what, that is exactly the same even in the UK, because on a very well known podcast, double Jeopardy, Tim Owen and Ken McDonald, they ask all their guests, they're all lawyers why do you go to law? Oh, we watched Crown Court on TV and we thought we could do better. So LSE, London, do you enjoy London? Meet lots of people? 

[00:34:46] Victor: It was great. I mean, LSE had a very liberal tradition and as a lot of you would know, the people you meet, the sort of issues that you're exposed to in those days, not just in law, but in all the other disciplines that the university had to offer. And as an 18 year old being dropped in the middle of London for three years, I mean, that was an experience that I thought was life changing.

I also did a lot of moots when I was at the LSE. So some of the best memories I had was actually representing the university in mooting competitions.

[00:35:21] Colin: For our listeners on this pod, moot is having a moot court, a mock court, whereby you do the arguments as if you're in court as well. I did find it of interest, you said you always wanted to be the Barrister and not the Solicitor. Most people, before they come back to Hong Kong, they always think, well, I think I'm going to become the solicitor.

What took you down that route?

[00:35:42] Victor: I think it was the idea that I could be self employed and independent. I mean, that probably had a large part to play because my father who ran a small business had always told me that, look, you really need to be self employed. You should try to work for yourself one day. I don't think he had the Bar in mind when he passed me that advice. And that was part of it. The other part was of course I was, I was attracted to the work. The idea that I can argue a case in court, you can represent your client from the word go on your own, I think was very attractive to me.

[00:36:17] Colin: So you finished in London and then you decide to come back to do your professional exams in London as opposed to, I've known some people who've done the Bar exams and then come back here and do the pupillage directly, but you decided to come back and do the PCLL. Guess you wanted to meet Hong Kong people, any reasons for that?

[00:36:37] Victor: If I am to wind the clock back, I may have done it differently because because I had three very good years in London, and it would have been nice if I can stay on for a couple more years, perhaps accumulate a bit more experience. But at that point of time, I have set up pupillage with Selmo Reyes, who was a commercial Baron Temple Chambers then, who subsequently took silk and became a judge.

So I think it was Selmo who told me back then that look you spent a few years in London, may not be a bad idea to come back and get to know a few more people, get to know a bit more about the Hong Kong system and do your PCLL at Hong Kong U. So I did, as I was told.

[00:37:14] Colin: I'm interested 'cause you did a year on the PCLL, and we'll talk about your role in general at the Bar. But the PCLL is the professional course, the postgraduate certificate in laws, and it is both for the Barristers and for the solicitors. Recently, they have put in options that are more akin to help the Barristers.

If you want to go to the Bar, you would pick out some of the options, your views of the PCLL when you did it at the early days, 

[00:37:39] Victor: In those days, There was, of course, the advocacy component, and I recall doing the advocacy exercise on a Saturday morning, which was a challenge when you were a student when everyone was out on a Friday night. So in those days, although there were some of those courses, I think they were less specialized.

I mean, these days there are components that goes into quite a number of different applications that even components and trial advocacy. But in those days a lot of us, I think basically learned at the expense of our clients. So, your first experience in a magistracy where your client was , in the event that you lose, was going to get jail time, could be the first time you, you cross examine.

I mean, this is how it was done back then. Of course, it's very different now. The sort of training we give Our law students the training we give to, to pupil Barristers. I think they are much better equipped, and I, I think I can say hand on heart, our young lawyers are really much, much more equipped, and better than us. 

[00:38:39] Colin: I have to say that the young solicitors, even trainees, they come in here. So you did your PCLL, you defeated the examiners, including me, the external examiner for the civil procedure. I was an external examiner. 

So you then decide as again, for our listeners, The solicitors have to do two years indenture, I call it. It's not indenture, it's training. I signed a deed of indenture in my day, but it changed into a training contract. Pupilage, tell us a little bit about you mentioned you had pupilage with Anselmo Reyes, but you also had him pupilage with Godfrey Lamb, I understand. And that was into Temple Chambers.

Did you, did you go anywhere else apart from Temple?

[00:39:17] Victor: Yes, I did. In fact I had very different but very interesting and rewarding pupillages with different people.

 I spent six months in Selma. He had a commercial practice. There were a variety of case from shipping to town planning. To all sorts of shareholders dispute, company law. And Selma of course had a huge, had huge influence on me. I spent six months with him fabulous, excellent lawyer really spent a lot of time basically going through our works with us. 

I actually started Pupilage. In fact, it was just a matter of the way in which it was arranged. I spent my first three months with Godfrey Lam, who is, of course now sitting in the Court of Appeal. Now, I think it was a shock to both Godfrey and myself. It was a shock to him when he found out how little I knew about the law.

It was a shock to me as to how hard he worked, and also, the size of his brain, everyone in Temple Chambers back in those days would walk in and pick his brain on the most difficult issues. So just sitting there listening to him interacting with his colleagues was a great experience. So I was Godfrey's first pupil, and we were of course two very good friends and he has always been a role model to myself.

After the three months of Godfrey and the six months of Selma, we had to do three months of crime. It's still a requirement for Hong Kong. And I think that is actually something that was extremely useful because as Colin, of all people, you understand, having a criminal practice or some criminal practice in your early days, even if you want to specialize in commercial law, or Civil cases later, it is extremely hopeful. And through Godfrey's introduction, I spent three months with Selwyn Yu. So I was also Selwyn's first pupil. And the good thing about being somebody's first pupil is that you also get to inherit or get introduced to quite a few of his solicitors.

So in those days, although I had only spent three months with Selwyn I actually got quite a few instructions from his solicitors. So by the time of my full practice, I was literally bumping around the magistracies every week doing ramifications, simple criminal cases. 

[00:41:33] Colin: So you're cutting your teeth.

[00:41:34] Victor: Exactly, I mean, the police legal officer in the middle of the night the all nighter and then bail in the morning. I mean, a lot of young lawyers especially those in bigger sets do not get that experience these days. But I think it has helped me enormously. Time on one's feet. Trying to understand, interacting, understanding people that you otherwise not get to meet.

Some that of course less desirable people. And some and, and a lot of them were basically average people who had nothing to do with the, the law or their life and found themselves into, in trouble all of a sudden.

[00:42:08] Colin: It is quite difficult for people who don't get representation. I mean, what we don't have here in Hong Kong like you have in other jurisdictions is duty lawyers at the police stations and there's a set sum of money. If you go and spend your night at the police stations or your day that you have a duty lawyer.

Here in Hong Kong, you only get into the duty lawyer scheme or into the magistrate's court for those who haven't got the resources as well. So you finish your first six months, then you do your second six, your 12 months, you then go back to Temple.

[00:42:39] Victor: I actually started practice at Dennis Chang chambers. 

So what happened was that I was also interested in public law. And at that point of time I did an extended pupillage with Phil Dykes. So I spent three months with Phil. It was extended in the sense that he knew I had some work. So I sat in his conference room.

He would of course go through his public law cases with me. I mean at that point of time he was a very busy Practitioner. That was just before he became chairman of the Bar. 

[00:43:08] Colin: Yes.

[00:43:09] Victor: so I had three months being exposed to a wide range of public law issues. While I was able to support myself doing small criminal cases.

[00:43:19] Colin: So you were a criminal lawyer starting off, you were doing a bit of public law, you were doing judicial reviews, you were running around doing everything. But then what took you into the commercial, the high end commercial lawyers?

[00:43:31] Victor: It wasn't really by design, in a way. in Hong Kong, I Some young members of the Bar set out wanting to develop a practice in a particular area of the law. In our days, it was even more difficult to choose, I think, because you didn't have any practice promotion. I joined the Bar when there was no website.

[00:43:50] Colin: And not even name cards in those early days. 

[00:43:53] Victor: In those days, you were not allowed to give someone your name card.

[00:43:55] Colin: Unless I asked you one.

[00:43:57] Victor: Precisely, it was, very bizarre for people outside the profession. So it was not easy to try to get into a particular area of the law. I mean, to begin with, I thought I wanted to do more public law cases.

They didn't really come my way. And somehow, I think after a couple of solicitors started instructing me to do more construction arbitration, actually to begin with. I actually had a friend who was working in one of the big firms that specialize in construction cases, and he asked if I wanted to give it a try.

So I did a couple of the smaller construction disputes. And that is how I got into arbitration and I think that then developed into a commercial practice. And eventually I did very little crime. 

[00:44:43] Colin: And then you've joined Temple Chambers and been there ever since.

[00:44:48] Victor: Yes, after I think, seven years of full practice, I moved back to Temple Chambers. I mean, at that point, a lot of the leaders there were people I knew since I was in pupillage. A lot of them I worked with quite regularly, and I think that is why in those days I decided to move back to a set that specializes in commercial disputes.

[00:45:11] Colin: Enjoyable? Did you enjoy the Bar? 

[00:45:13] Victor: Absolutely, we're often asked if you get to choose again. Is there anything else that you wanted to do? I think the problem with Barristers is that a lot of us actually have no difficulty waking up in the morning doing what we do every day. And if you are to do the same job day after day, you really need a lot of motivation.

And you really got to be in something that you enjoy doing. Of course, there are days where you say to yourself, I would rather stay in bed. When you're a very difficult case, when you're a very difficult judge, I mean, that happens from time to time. More so when you become more senior actually. 

[00:45:51] Colin: And also very difficult solicitors chasing you for advices. I think for our listeners, you've got to realize that I'm a great believer on the split profession. I think it works very well. But We the solicitors do have occasional trouble chasing down our favorite Barristers or our favorite jockeys to go on the horse to get them to provide us with all the information we need and all the opinions and strategy and tactics.

It is a team issue, but it is a big team.

[00:46:19] Victor: But I'm glad that you say you're a believer of the split profession because as I've been telling a lot of our young members, when you look around the world, I think the referral Bar and the split profession is really the exception rather than the norm.

[00:46:35] Colin: Absolutely. It is as well. So Just before I go into your role in the Bar Association, tell me a little bit about the Securities and Futures Commission. You're a non executive director. How did that come about?

[00:46:46] Victor: The honest answer is, I don't really know how that came about. I was caught one day and I was asked if I would consider taking up that role. I think what had happened was because in the five or six years before I became a director, I did quite a few cases for the SFC. We have had a lot of success.

It was in those days where the commission had a very clever director enforcement. And basically he was trying out the different tools that he had under the SFO. So we had a lot of fun. Arguing cases on points that were never taken to the Hong Kong court. I mean, that that gave me a lot of exposure, and I'm very grateful to them for giving a junior counsel.

I wasn't in silk then, the opportunity to argue those cases. They were cases that were impactful. I mean, a lot of them were to do with massive fraud on the small shareholders. And through my work with them, I was given the opportunity to do work that affected the market and the investing public.

So after a few years they always had a silk, a senior counsel on the board and when the last person had to go after six years they asked me, I'm then hired a bit because that would mean that I can't act for the commissioner in the six years. So I knew I was going to lose a significant portion of my practice.

But as I was advised by quite a number of people, I would find the work rewarding and very educational, and they're absolutely right. So ever since then I've not regretted it, frankly. I got to learn a lot about different aspects of a financial market. A lot of the corporate finance work were things that I was never exposed to.

And in addition, It's over a year, they have actually asked me to chair one of the subsidiaries. So there's a subsidiary known as IFEC. And that, that specializes in investors education. And it has just been most enjoyable chairing the organization where we only have about 24 staff, but they do very good work in investing, in educating the public on investor education.

[00:48:54] Colin: Let's move on a little bit. Hong Kong Bar Association, you're now the chairman, but , what prompted you to join the Bar Association? I know you worked your way slightly, you are normal members of the Bar. Tell me a little bit about that.

[00:49:07] Victor: I was in the Bar Council for quite a few years. I served in the council under the chairmanship of, I think it was firstly Paul Shea, then Winnie Tam and subsequently Phil Dykes, yes, and I also serve under Paul Lamb. So I serve under four different, very different chairpersons.

[00:49:26] Colin: And for our listeners, Paul Lam is now the Secretary for Justice.

[00:49:30] Victor: I serve with Paul as well. It was never my plan to, to take up that role. I never given any thought about it. And the person I have to blame is actually Derek Chan, my vice chairman, who you know

[00:49:42] Colin: I know very well Derek, instructed on many cases

[00:49:45] Victor: Derek is one of the leading criminal lawyers in Hong Kong Bar.

He came to me just over two and a half years ago telling me that my predecessor, Paul Harris, was not going to run again. And he believed that I should consider taking up that position. So I had Derek to blame for that. for becoming the chairman of the Bar.

[00:50:04] Colin: Just to tell our listeners, in a nutshell, what does the Bar Association do from your perspective. 

[00:50:09] Victor: First of all, we are a professional body in Hong Kong that, that regulates the Barrister. So we serve a regulator function in so far as the Barrister's profession is concerned. We, of course, the professional association, also in the sense that our voice that we have a trade union function as well.

 And we have to look after the interests of the almost 1,500 Barristers in Hong Kong. But I think there's also one aspect that is unique and in that we have always had a societal role to play in speaking out on rule of law issues, in trying to do our very best to assist the independent judiciary and also to develop the independent Bar in Hong Kong.

[00:50:53] Colin: It's Very very important. Just to sort of help our listeners to give you some figures. We're one, you're 1,500 Barristers. We're quite close to 12,000 solicitors, but 9,000 have practicing certificates. Of the others, they are in house, et cetera, as well. And the Law Society looks after us as well.

Now, you became chairman. There were difficult times, as well, but when you took over as chair, I mean, I'm very good friends both with Phil Dykes. I've instructed him, superb lawyer, human rights as well, Paul Harris as well, a very good lawyer as well. So if you're now common, what's your priorities where you see going forward, when you took over, what did you feel that you needed to deal with, and what do you feel your main aspirations.

[00:51:39] Victor: When I took over It was in a period where I think a lot of our members had very diverse views on where the Bar was heading. I mean, Hong Kong has been through a lot then. We have been through the events in 2019.

We have had a few years of the pandemic. People also had confidence issues about Hong Kong. No matter what your political view was. I think people from it's probably a fair comment to say that is people from different walks of life have very different opinion on where the society is going, on the challenges that we're facing, and how we are to deal with them.

I mean, Barristers are, as very opinionated people and a lot of them have very strong belief in their own opinion so to try to get a good grasp of what my members thought at the time, to try to come to consensus on many of these issues, and to try to come up with an approach that is in the best interest of the Bar was something that we spent a lot of time on.

But what I can say is to my surprise actually, my members were nowhere near as difficult as I thought they were going to be. I think it was primarily because firstly, we're a very small organization. I mean, 1,500 people. There were a lot of personal relationships in this small profession.

So a lot of them were people that you have met through doing cases against over the years. There were a lot of pupil master and pupil relationships and they were colleagues, chambermaids. And what I can say is I was, I'm just extremely grateful, to everyone in the Bar who has been so supportive in the past two and a half years of the work of the council. And the Bar council members of the council that I've had in the past two and a half years were actually all fabulous people who had the interest of the Bar very close to their heart.

I mean, as a small organization like ours, we had to count on our members. Members of the council and those who sit in the committee to do actually an extraordinary amount of work 

[00:53:42] Colin: I know that. I mean, I'll give one example. Well, I know how hard everyone works. Is King's Council. The admission of King's Council. Now, on my pod, we've spoken about that with other people. Just to remind our listeners, it is possible. It is part of our fabric to have King's Council coming over from London or even from Australia or elsewhere to add extra dimensions to matters.

Moving forward in the next few years, is this going to remain? Us as solicitors, we'd like to get King's Council in. Yourselves, what was your views on that?

[00:54:14] Victor: Most definitely. I'm also a strong believer that the mission of Overseas Council in Hong Kong, we tend to say Overseas Council because, strictly speaking, it's not limited to King's Council from London, but I think 99 percent of the overseas submissions are really our colleagues in London from the London Bar who frankly has greater expertise on some of the more discrete areas of practice. So, for example, when you look at tax, when you look at some of the public law issues, criminal law that you have been involved in over the years. Because of the size of our Bar, very often, we really benefit from working together with King's Council or overseas lawyers from other jurisdictions, where they really specialize in particular areas of the law.

I'm actually going to be led by someone in a couple of weeks in a court of final appeal on a case to do with Quisco Trust. So I am also a beneficiary of that still.

[00:55:10] Colin: And that's to help our listeners. That's basically the tracing of money. So it's a very complicated case. Where money has gone, and who's the beneficial owner of the money. And the benefits of that as well. I'm glad to hear that king's Council I think is very, very important because, one area which I do feel where I see the Bar has improved is that the Barristers chambers set up with far better practice development officers.

They promote themselves very well. 'cause a lot of my clients, I say you have to have a Barrister name. The next minute they're googling that name, they want to go to the website. They want to know a lot more about the Barristers. So. I think that's good, but what about your views on direct access to the Bar?

In other areas, there is direct access. Barristers in England do not like it, because they always prefer dealing with it. Here in Hong Kong, it is very, very limited on, like, from, let's say, people in house, but is it going to work for Hong Kong? I'm not sure it would.

[00:56:06] Victor: We do have some direct access now. So if you look at our code of conduct professionals like accountants, they can come to us for advice. There are a number of professional bodies that can give instructions to Barristers directly. They are usually organization with good in house counsel, in house solicitors anyway.

 I'm sure about expanding the scope of direct access in Hong Kong. Me speaking for myself, I would prefer to work actually with solicitors. I think the split profession has allowed Barristers to focus on their court works, to focus on advocacy, and that enabled the Hong Kong Bar to specialize.

There are only 1,500 Barristers that do that. And I don't think more direct access in the model that some of our friends in the other jurisdiction has adopted is at this stage suitable for Hong Kong. I mean, the last thing I want to do, frankly, is to handle clients money.

[00:57:03] Colin: Yeah, nobody wants to do that as well. Now, how do you help, your young Barristers? I know a lot of the people who've gone to the Bar, they're just starting up. Now, through their pupillage, they do get some payment to be, I know Temple is quite good on that, and other chambers do have to pay a minimum, to young pupils.

How do you help them? How does the Bar help them develop their practice? Because it can be a very lonely profession, being a Barrister, but at the same time, it can be a very rewarding. So, with the youngsters, how do you help them?

[00:57:34] Victor: First of all, the bar Association, as an institution, we have actually set up a large number of scholarships to help our young members. So last week, we gave the Bar Scholarship to free young members of the Bar, so they will be supported throughout their pupillage.

We have set up, for example, the Patrick Yu Memorial Scholarship, helping young criminal lawyers to develop their practice. So there are these schemes.

In terms of training and skill set you may have came across the Advocacy Training Council. So the, the ATC in Hong Kong, I believe Mr. Justice Coleman was our first chairman, and Jonathan Chang, SC, is sharing it now. They maintain a close link with other advocacy training councils in other jurisdictions.

So, every year we do support a number of overseas trainers and they come to Hong Kong to train our young people. I mean, unlike you and I, as I've said at the outset, who basically Developed our advocacy and our practice at the expense of our clients. In my case, 20 odd years ago, Colin, in your case, longer, a little bit longer.

But I think our young people are far more equipped nowadays with the support chambers, I think especially the larger set of chambers. I think they now have in place also system to support younger members in terms of overhead in terms of the mentorship. But the Bar as a whole I think we've also gone a long way in trying to support our members.

I mean, and despite the idea that, well, it's no longer fashionable to study law. I mean, I've, people say that to me from time to time. I think the Bar is still attracting, very talented young people.

I think Yeah. I think it's really the special nature of the work that really helped us.

[00:59:21] Colin: Now, end of this year, you'll finish your term as chairman of the Bar. You can't serve anymore because you have a fixed term. What's next for you? Judiciary?

Would you want to become a judge? You sit as a deputy? I always ask that to Barristers who I have on the pod.

[00:59:36] Victor: The honest answer is, I don't know. My wife and my daughter, a bit of family time. It's not been easy in so far as demand on one's time. In the past three years. I think I have a few solicitors who are not too happy with me, who have not paid too much attention to their cases. So I think in the short run I really need to get back to my life as a Barrister as a father, as a husband.

In the long run, I don't know. I think the answer is I say to myself one of the biggest difficulty with being an advocate, being a Barrister with a leading role especially in cases is that you do ask yourself whether you have the stamina, whether you have the drive to continue doing this job in the next five, ten years.

I see some of our senior members who are much more senior than myself, and they're still going strong, and I ask myself, will I be able to do this when I'm older and when I have less stamina? But I think one day I will probably move on and do something else. I haven't figured out what that is going to be yet.

[01:00:41] Colin: Now, Hong Kong has gone through some challenging times we know about the national security law, the latest legislation, which you are heavily involved in safeguarding national security. The law is in place now. Moving forward, how do you see Hong Kong? What's your thoughts about the city's future?

How do you feel about it? I always ask my guests this. 

[01:01:02] Victor: It is not easy in a number of ways, I think. First of all, the economy is going through a rather rough period. I think that is probably to do with the fact that mainland China is going through a rough period. I mean, you can't expect a 10 percent growth every year. And the state of economy is that it is highly correlated with the situation in the mainland.

So, I think that's one of the biggest challenge. The other challenges of course confidence. I think because of the events over the past few years, there are people whose confidence may be a bit shaken. Some of our friends have of course left the city. I have always called myself an optimist in the sense that I think we have to recognize these challenges and do the best out of it.

In terms of what we do, I'm still a strong believer of our judiciary, of our judicial independence, of our judges. So in terms of the judicial system, I have every confidence that it will thrive despite the short term challenges. I mean, one of the things that I found to be most interesting is that this job has enabled me to interact with with a large number of lawyers in mainland China.

At different levels, they could be heads of law associations, some of them are government lawyers, some prosecutors. And the one thing that I found in common is that the vast majority are really admirers of the legal system in Hong Kong. And they have told me repeatedly that look, Hong Kong has really got to be different.

It's got to have its own system, that is unique. And that is not only in Hong Kong's interest. That is also in interest of mainland China. And you're talking about a lot of support from a very big profession across the border. They have almost on the current trajectory, they will have 1 million lawyers very soon.

So I am encouraged in so far as the support we get. I'm encouraged by basically the quality of our judges. And I'm also encouraged by the quality of the young people joining the Bar. A lot of them, of course, joining the solicitor's profession. So despite the short term challenges in the long run I'm still a big fan of our legal system.

[01:03:22] Colin: And that's very interesting, because one of my guests, Johannes Chan, said exactly the same thing. He said, the uniqueness of Hong Kong is the difference, that we are different to mainland. We have our legal system, which is respected, the rule of law, and enhancing and growing on that. That is vital for Hong Kong, in my view.

[01:03:41] Victor: I think the role that we are playing as a unique jurisdiction is something that the, the central government also treasure. I mean, over the past year one of, I think the biggest development is that we have been encouraged actually to teach in mainland China.

[01:03:58] Colin: I know you've been up to Peking University to do that.

[01:04:00] Victor: We have had that course in Peking U for a number of years. We have started a new course in Shanghai. And not only that, the law associations of the different provinces are actually now lining up to interact with the two branches of the profession in Hong Kong. They really want to learn more about the common law.

And try to equip themselves in dealing with legal issues in relation to foreign trade, investments the way we resolve our disputes, international arbitration. So there are really a lot of scope for knowledge sharing and helping really to develop skill sets for lawyers in the mainland.

[01:04:39] Colin: Yes, and also in the universities here, there are many now mainland students have come in, and I'm mentoring one of them. And, they really want to learn and be part of a system. It's not as if they see this is a totally different system, and both can enhance each other. And I think that's the way forward. I really do.

[01:04:58] Victor: I think that is the way forward and I am confident that we will thrive in the long run.

[01:05:05] Colin: Victor, it's been an honour. It's been great talking to you. Thanks so much for joining us on Law & More.

[01:05:11] Victor: Thank you so much, Colin.