Hong Kong Lawyer

August 2017

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12 www.hk-lawyer.org •  August 2017 Legislative Council Member, Functional Constituency, Legal By Cynthia G. Claytor Hon. Dennis Kwok Face to Face with Dennis Kwok, Legislative Council Member of the Legal Functional Constituency, speaks about his transition from law into politics and his role and current priorities as the legislative representative of the legal profession. A lmost one year into his second term as the legal sector's Legislative Council representative, Mr. Kwok remains energised about pursuing a diverse range of legal and regulatory reforms, impacting everything from Hong Kong's arbitration regime to its judiciary, all in the name of safeguarding the rule of law and enhancing the ability of Hong Kong lawyers to thrive at home and abroad. Speaking about his early legal career and transition into politics, Mr. Kwok provides key insights into core values that have driven him to excel as a civic- minded lawyer and legislator. Legal Career As Mr. Kwok neared his second year of law school, he had no clear idea of whether he wanted to be a solicitor or a barrister. Given his uncertainty, he decided to apply for a training contract and got an offer from Herbert Smith, which he accepted. He joined the firm's Hong Kong office after completing his PCLL studies at the University of Hong Kong, where he remained for 5 years. "This was a good decision because the firm has a phenomenal training programme and a wide range of practice areas for young lawyers to explore. When I speak to law students now, I tell them if they are unsure about whether they would like to be a barrister or solicitor, they should consider joining a solicitors' firm with a broad range of specialisations. That way, they will have the opportunity to explore different practice areas during their two year training contract. As a trainee, I was able to rotate between the corporate finance, insurance, litigation and arbitration teams, as well as be seconded to London for six months. That experience created a strong foundation upon which I have built my legal and political career. I still draw upon that training in the work I do today," he said. Post-qualification, Mr. Kwok practiced as a solicitor for three years with Herbert Smith before transitioning to the Bar in 2006. During this time, he worked on a number of complex commercial disputes and was able to learn from some of the best practitioners in the profession. "As a barrister, this experience has been immensely instructive. I also find it helpful as the legal profession's legislative representative – I can leverage what I learned about law firms' internal operations when I am dealing with practice development-related policy issues. This background has certainly given me a better understanding of the legal profession than I otherwise would have had," he explained. Mr. Kwok indicated that a key factor in his decision to move to the Bar was his desire to work on a wider range of legal issues such as judicial review and constitutional challenges facing Hong Kong. "I did enjoy working on large commercial cases, but I also started to develop an interest in looking at many other legal problems within the Hong Kong community. This motivated me to take up pro bono legal work – giving free legal advice at a public housing estate. In the end, it led me to question and eventually revise my long term career plan."

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