Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

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HollywoodA
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Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:51 pm

I am a rising senior studying business economics at an American university. I just completed a semester abroad in Hong Kong and fell in love with the city and people. I would like to live and work there, preferably as soon as possible.

If I were to pursue a career in law in HK, would it make more sense to aim for the best law school in America and then hope to be recruited to a HK firm or the HK office of an international firm, or should I pursue a LLB or JD degree at somewhere such as Hong Kong University and then try to find HK employment from there?

The clear advantage for going the first route in my eyes is the flexibility the JD from a top U.S. school would provide. The disadvantage, however, is that I wouldn’t get to HK for 3 more years, and I would have to study for and take the LSAT, which may be hard to fit in with my focus also on networking for finance jobs and possibly exploring the GMAT to do a MSc in Finance.

The clear advantages of the going the second route are that I would be living in HK sooner, and as such I could also use my time to network and perhaps land a job in business, rather than law (I’m not too picky). Also, it doesn’t appear as though I would have to take the LSAT to do the JD or LLB program. The disadvantage seems to be that I would be attending a less well regarded school, I would have to become acquainted with a legal system I’ve never really interacted with before, and I would be starting behind local students who start studying law from the age of 19.

What I’m not sure about is whether getting the JD from a top U.S. school would give me a significant advantage in landing a good job, or if it’s even feasible for me to expect to get a JD from a HK school and find a job as an American citizen with no Chinese language skill.

Can anyone provide any insight or advice on this matter? Thanks.

Here’s some more background info about me in case it’s relevant:
- 3.9 GPA from semi-target public university business program (two degrees, one minor)
- No knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, would need work visa in HK
- Studied abroad at The London School of Economics during summer after soph yr
- Studied abroad in Hong Kong during spring semester of junior year
- Had an internship at a very small private regional private equity firm after fresh yr
- Have a finance internship right now for my state’s government

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macattaq
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby macattaq » Wed Jun 09, 2010 7:10 pm

Get a job teaching English, and use this as a means of getting familiar with the legal system and language. Get fluent in the language stat.

Go to a local university to study law, because there is no sense in learning the intricacies of American law when you're going to be in HK. I'm guessing that there is a mix of British common law and Chinese law over there in HK, so learning American law isn't going to be that beneficial.

But, if you're not certain you actually want to practice law, then just keep teaching English while trying to land a more specialized job in whatever area you can use your degree in. It doesn't really make sense to sink a shit load of money into a law degree if you aren't actually interested in the practice of law.

Finally, rising senior. LOL.

HollywoodA
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:22 am

Thanks for your response.

Yeah, I actually am considering teaching English over there. Perhaps for a year just to have more time to figure stuff out as far as LSAT, GMAT, or post-college plans in general goes.

I wouldn't be looking at an American school for the information per se, as much as the name brand. Do you think the cachet of a Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, etc. would allow me to get a HK law job easier than a coming from a HK law school?


Also, just curious, but what's funny about rising senior?
Last edited by HollywoodA on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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thexfactor
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby thexfactor » Thu Jun 10, 2010 9:48 am

I spent a summer in HK working for a coporation. In reality, it is really hard to land a permanent job in HK. I think for immigration, they need to prove that they are unable to find someone in Hk that can do the job. However, it isnt hard to land a summer internship position in HK. Internship visas are pretty easy to get. Just email your resume to some big companies and hope you can land a position in a company's legal department. With your background and GPA, Im sure someone will give you an internship. Then try to network from there.

Things in HK are very expensive. All the "fun" places are outragously priced.

Better start emailing your resume around. Just a hint, check out some of the automakers. IE Daimler, Ford, GM... ;)

HollywoodA wrote:I am a rising senior studying business economics at an American university. I just completed a semester abroad in Hong Kong and fell in love with the city and people. I would like to live and work there, preferably as soon as possible.

If I were to pursue a career in law in HK, would it make more sense to aim for the best law school in America and then hope to be recruited to a HK firm or the HK office of an international firm, or should I pursue a LLB or JD degree at somewhere such as Hong Kong University and then try to find HK employment from there?

The clear advantage for going the first route in my eyes is the flexibility the JD from a top U.S. school would provide. The disadvantage, however, is that I wouldn’t get to HK for 3 more years, and I would have to study for and take the LSAT, which may be hard to fit in with my focus also on networking for finance jobs and possibly exploring the GMAT to do a MSc in Finance.

The clear advantages of the going the second route are that I would be living in HK sooner, and as such I could also use my time to network and perhaps land a job in business, rather than law (I’m not too picky). Also, it doesn’t appear as though I would have to take the LSAT to do the JD or LLB program. The disadvantage seems to be that I would be attending a less well regarded school, I would have to become acquainted with a legal system I’ve never really interacted with before, and I would be starting behind local students who start studying law from the age of 19.

What I’m not sure about is whether getting the JD from a top U.S. school would give me a significant advantage in landing a good job, or if it’s even feasible for me to expect to get a JD from a HK school and find a job as an American citizen with no Chinese language skill.

Can anyone provide any insight or advice on this matter? Thanks.

Here’s some more background info about me in case it’s relevant:
- 3.9 GPA from semi-target public university business program (two degrees, one minor)
- No knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, would need work visa in HK
- Studied abroad at The London School of Economics during summer after soph yr
- Studied abroad in Hong Kong during spring semester of junior year
- Had an internship at a very small private regional private equity firm after fresh yr
- Have a finance internship right now for my state’s government

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174
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby 174 » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:20 am

HollywoodA wrote:The disadvantage, however, is that I wouldn’t get to HK for 3 more years, and I would have to study for and take the LSAT, which may be hard to fit in with my focus also on networking for finance jobs and possibly exploring the GMAT to do a MSc in Finance.

0L Disclaimer

From what I've learned in other threads here, American firms in Asia usually hire lawyers that have a few years of experience working in top firms in the United States. They tend not to hire students fresh out of law school, and when they do, they are students that have native level proficiency in the language. If you really must work in HK, I wouldn't recommend a JD. It is certainly a possible career path, but not at all a probable one. This is especially true without language skills.

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thexfactor
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby thexfactor » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:29 am

I have a good plan for you. Take the Sept LSAT. Try to find an internship in Hk during the school year. Then take a year off school. Work for a year. Then go to law school. Who knows, HK might not be everything you think it is.

HollywoodA
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:37 pm

thexfactor wrote:I spent a summer in HK working for a coporation. In reality, it is really hard to land a permanent job in HK. I think for immigration, they need to prove that they are unable to find someone in Hk that can do the job. However, it isnt hard to land a summer internship position in HK. Internship visas are pretty easy to get. Just email your resume to some big companies and hope you can land a position in a company's legal department. With your background and GPA, Im sure someone will give you an internship. Then try to network from there.

Things in HK are very expensive. All the "fun" places are outragously priced.

Better start emailing your resume around. Just a hint, check out some of the automakers. IE Daimler, Ford, GM... ;)



Thanks for the info. I was aware of the visa restrictions, but wasn't sure if doing a JD in HK would make it easier to land a job. I know you're allowed a year after graduation to stay and look for employment. And who knows, maybe I could get married and get a dependent visa ;) Interesting idea about interning in the legal department though. I'm not as familiar with legal internship norms as I am with banking or consulting. I know in business it's a little harder than just e-mailing your resume around. Usually have to build up a relationship networking over a couple months.

And one of the things I liked most about HK was a lot of the fun stuff was free or cheap. Shek-O beach, all the islands, Sai Kung, etc are free. You can even bring your own booze to my favorite bar, Red Bar next to IFC. Only really expensive thing is housing, and even that is cheap if you're in school.

thexfactor wrote:I have a good plan for you. Take the Sept LSAT. Try to find an internship in Hk during the school year. Then take a year off school. Work for a year. Then go to law school. Who knows, HK might not be everything you think it is.


Thanks again for the plan. Unfortunately I can't take a year of school without forfeiting my scholarships, so it's probably not feasible. Also, I don't think I could adequately prepare for the LSAT this summer.

And I kind of want to see how on campus recruiting goes for banking and consulting gigs this summer, as well as fleshing out my business plan idea...

Think your plan would still work if I finished my senior year, didn't get a finance job I liked, studied for the LSAT with no distractions in spring/summer 2011, did an internship in HK for a year, and then went to law school?

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:13 pm

The legal profession in Hong Kong is structured in much the same way as in Britain: the LL.B. is a four-year undergraduate degree, and to practice one needs to take a year of "bar school", i.e. legal professional training (in fact, people with undergraduate degrees in subjects other than law can take the one-year professional training course and be admitted to the Bar). In Hong Kong, this professional training is called the P.C.L.L., and can be taken at the University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, or Chinese University of Hong Kong (the first of these is one of the best universities in Asia and is, I think, the only English-language university in Hong Kong).

Unlike the equivalent professional-training courses in England, where seperate courses are required, P.C.L.L. graduates can choose to apprentice as either a barrister or a solicitor; the legal profession in Hong Kong is still split, however, between those two fields, as it is in England and Australia. One can choose to do both, but that would entail three years of apprenticeship: a one-year "pupillage" in a barrister's chambers and a two-year apprenticeship to be a solicitor (usually at a law firm). Barristers speak in court and don't deal directly with clients; I don't know whether or not they still wear wigs in Hong Kong, as they do in England and Australia. Solicitors deal with clients (or numbers) but don't speak in court. In these countries being a barrister is traditionally seen as being more prestigious and highly paid, but most of the tasks associated with North American “biglaw” would fall within the purview of a solicitor.

There are also entirely separate rules for foreign-educated lawyers who work under the aegis of a major international law firm or corporation and practice almost entirely in the law of their home jurisdiction . If you go in under those rules, you are entirely a creature of your firm (or whatever other firm chooses to hire you if you jump ship while you’re there), and from what I’ve heard such lawyers tend to form tightly knit groups of expats who undertake relatively little genuine interaction with the local population (though you may end up in such a group in any case). The city, sadly, is not quite as welcoming of Westerners as it was in the days of British rule. These jobs are also highly technical and highly paid, and I would suspect that the most common way to get one is to put in a few years at a major firm in Britain or the U.S. that has an office there, while repeatedly and pointedly insisting that you really want a transfer to the Hong Kong office if a spot becomes available, and hoping that the gunner down the hall (or in the next city) doesn’t get it ahead of you.

If I knew that I wanted to go to Hong Kong, but didn’t know how much success I was likely to have, I would get a J.D. from a top U.S. law school (or an LL.B. from Oxford or Cambridge, which still trump the Ivy League for hiring in Hong Kong) and then go take the P.C.L.L., which would make me eligible to practice in my own right in Hong Kong even if no big multinational firm was willing to hire me there right away. Don’t know about extending that student visa, though; I believe that Hong Kong hands out visas to foreigners who make a 15 million HKD investment in the territory, which explains the unlikely preponderence of $15 million-dollar houses in certain neighbourhoods. A poor ex-student would have a slightly harder time, I imagine.

HollywoodA
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:32 pm

MJMD wrote:The legal profession in Hong Kong is structured in much the same way as in Britain: the LL.B. is a four-year undergraduate degree, and to practice one needs to take a year of "bar school", i.e. legal professional training (in fact, people with undergraduate degrees in subjects other than law can take the one-year professional training course and be admitted to the Bar). In Hong Kong, this professional training is called the P.C.L.L., and can be taken at the University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, or Chinese University of Hong Kong (the first of these is one of the best universities in Asia and is, I think, the only English-language university in Hong Kong).

Unlike the equivalent professional-training courses in England, where seperate courses are required, P.C.L.L. graduates can choose to apprentice as either a barrister or a solicitor; the legal profession in Hong Kong is still split, however, between those two fields, as it is in England and Australia. One can choose to do both, but that would entail three years of apprenticeship: a one-year "pupillage" in a barrister's chambers and a two-year apprenticeship to be a solicitor (usually at a law firm). Barristers speak in court and don't deal directly with clients; I don't know whether or not they still wear wigs in Hong Kong, as they do in England and Australia. Solicitors deal with clients (or numbers) but don't speak in court. In these countries being a barrister is traditionally seen as being more prestigious and highly paid, but most of the tasks associated with North American “biglaw” would fall within the purview of a solicitor.

There are also entirely separate rules for foreign-educated lawyers who work under the aegis of a major international law firm or corporation and practice almost entirely in the law of their home jurisdiction . If you go in under those rules, you are entirely a creature of your firm (or whatever other firm chooses to hire you if you jump ship while you’re there), and from what I’ve heard such lawyers tend to form tightly knit groups of expats who undertake relatively little genuine interaction with the local population (though you may end up in such a group in any case). The city, sadly, is not quite as welcoming of Westerners as it was in the days of British rule. These jobs are also highly technical and highly paid, and I would suspect that the most common way to get one is to put in a few years at a major firm in Britain or the U.S. that has an office there, while repeatedly and pointedly insisting that you really want a transfer to the Hong Kong office if a spot becomes available, and hoping that the gunner down the hall (or in the next city) doesn’t get it ahead of you.

If I knew that I wanted to go to Hong Kong, but didn’t know how much success I was likely to have, I would get a J.D. from a top U.S. law school (or an LL.B. from Oxford or Cambridge, which still trump the Ivy League for hiring in Hong Kong) and then go take the P.C.L.L., which would make me eligible to practice in my own right in Hong Kong even if no big multinational firm was willing to hire me there right away. Don’t know about extending that student visa, though; I believe that Hong Kong hands out visas to foreigners who make a 15 million HKD investment in the territory, which explains the unlikely preponderence of $15 million-dollar houses in certain neighbourhoods. A poor ex-student would have a slightly harder time, I imagine.


Great post. Thanks. HKU is indeed one of the highest ranked schools in Asia overall, although certain schools are better in specific subjects, eg, HKUST in finance. Most of the colleges are English speaking however. At least CityU was when I did exchange there.

Do you think doing the LL.B. in Oxford of Cambridge would provide a huge advantage for someone in my situation landing a position in a Hong Kong office? It would come at the cost of delaying my move to HK by three years, paying a significant amount more in tuition, and I think you also have to do a conversion course before becoming a solicitor in HK if you're coming from outside in order to be apprised of the specific issues related to Hong Kong's Basic Law.

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Thu Jun 10, 2010 8:03 pm

This is the best website I've found concerning the P.C.L.L.:

http://www.hku.hk/pcll/faq/index.html

I think that the relevant excerpts posts with regard to qualification are the following:

Q: "I note that in order to be eligible for admission into the PCLL programme, I need to pass eleven ' Core' subjects, namely, Contract, Tort, Constitutional law, Criminal law, Land Law, Equity, Civil Procedure, Criminal procedure, Evidence, Business Associations, and Commercial Law. As the courses I am studying bear different titles than those listed as the 'core' subjects, how do I know whether I am taking the courses which will fulfill these PCLL prerequisite core subjects?"

A: "We have encountered this quite often in the past. In the UK for example, constitutional law may be covered under a course titled public law; contract and torts are sometimes covered under courses entitled law of obligations. As you may need to take the Conversion Examination for PCLL Admission for the relevant subject if your course does not meet the PCLL admission requirement, it would be in your interest to seek exemption for any subject (s) that you have doubt from the PCLL Conversion Examination Board"


A: “I have completed a law degree, or am presently studying a law degree, but have not studied the three 'Top-up' subjects namely, Hong Kong Constitutional Law, Hong Kong Legal System and Hong Kong Land Law. How can I fulfil this requirement of competence in these three 'Top-up' subjects?”

Q: Under the new entry requirements for PCLL, an applicant who holds a law degree from a university, other than one of the three universities offering such degrees in Hong Kong, or other recognized law qualification, can demonstrate competence in these three 'Top-up' subjects when such subjects have been completed as follows:
(a) as a visiting "internal" student in one of the three universities awarding LL.B. and/or J.D. degrees in Hong Kong and passing the requisite examination; and/or
(b) as part of the Graduate Diploma in English and Hong Kong Law taught and awarded in Hong Kong; and/or
(c) by passing the relevant subject(s) in the Hong Kong Conversion Examination for PCLL Admission.

You should read the whole thing.

I think that Oxford or Cambridge would have a very slight edge in Hong Kong over even Harvard and Yale, but there’s no question that the latter would also look extraordinarily good on a CV, and therefore no reason to leave the States if you don’t want to. It may be even be possible to find American law schools that offer courses convertible into the three Hong Kong “top up” subjects (look at West Coast schools like Stanford, Berkeley, or Washington, and contact HKU to see if conversions from their curricula have been allowed in the past). Failing that, I would inquire to see if the three “top-up” courses can be taken during the summer, and if it would be possible to take them one summer during law school, or even the summer after graduating law school.

Or you could always cut right to the chase and enroll in the LL.B. program at HKU. As I said, the University has an great history and excellent reputation, and I presume they have an accelerated program for students with previous first degrees. Three years LL.B. plus one year P.C.L.L. would establish a long period of residency in Hong Kong that would help with any application for permanent status (in Britain or Australia, one can apply for citizenship after five years of legal residency, three if you marry a local). But the culture shock would probably be intense, quality of living would be poor, and I’m not even sure how many foreign students they accept (demand for spots from Mainland China must be intense). Just taking the P.C.L.L. after acquiring your law degree somewhere else sounds easier to me.

I hesitated to mention this because I just recently wrote a lot about the University of British Columbia in another post, and I don’t want to seem like I’m trolling for them, but UBC has an exchange program with the University of Hong Kong, whereby you do two years in Vancouver followed by two in Hong Kong. I seriously looked at this myself and decided it was a rip-off because the first of the two years in Hong Kong seemed pointless; you end up with a UBC J.D. and a UHK P.C.L.L., but you do not get a UHK LL.B. However, that LL.B. is really pointless anyway, so long as you’re licensed to practice, and the extra year in Hong Kong would get you up to snuff on all the material required before beginning the P.C.L.L. program. This program would shave a year off your wait-time and might be something you would be interested in, if you don’t mind having Canada as your back-up plan:

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dibs
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby dibs » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:04 am

the only way to get work in hong kong is to take a 6 month internship positions with a very heavy language course. my cousin runs an airline out of macao/beijing and wouldn't take me on unless i did it.

etlien
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby etlien » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:47 am

HollywoodA wrote:I am a rising senior studying business economics at an American university. I just completed a semester abroad in Hong Kong and fell in love with the city and people. I would like to live and work there, preferably as soon as possible.

If I were to pursue a career in law in HK, would it make more sense to aim for the best law school in America and then hope to be recruited to a HK firm or the HK office of an international firm, or should I pursue a LLB or JD degree at somewhere such as Hong Kong University and then try to find HK employment from there?

The clear advantage for going the first route in my eyes is the flexibility the JD from a top U.S. school would provide. The disadvantage, however, is that I wouldn’t get to HK for 3 more years, and I would have to study for and take the LSAT, which may be hard to fit in with my focus also on networking for finance jobs and possibly exploring the GMAT to do a MSc in Finance.

The clear advantages of the going the second route are that I would be living in HK sooner, and as such I could also use my time to network and perhaps land a job in business, rather than law (I’m not too picky). Also, it doesn’t appear as though I would have to take the LSAT to do the JD or LLB program. The disadvantage seems to be that I would be attending a less well regarded school, I would have to become acquainted with a legal system I’ve never really interacted with before, and I would be starting behind local students who start studying law from the age of 19.

What I’m not sure about is whether getting the JD from a top U.S. school would give me a significant advantage in landing a good job, or if it’s even feasible for me to expect to get a JD from a HK school and find a job as an American citizen with no Chinese language skill.

Can anyone provide any insight or advice on this matter? Thanks.

Here’s some more background info about me in case it’s relevant:
- 3.9 GPA from semi-target public university business program (two degrees, one minor)
- No knowledge of Cantonese or Mandarin, would need work visa in HK
- Studied abroad at The London School of Economics during summer after soph yr
- Studied abroad in Hong Kong during spring semester of junior year
- Had an internship at a very small private regional private equity firm after fresh yr
- Have a finance internship right now for my state’s government


A 0L here so take this with a grain of salt.

British law firms have a much larger presence in HK than American firms, particularly magic circle firms. You will find a lot more British educated lawyers than American lawyers in HK. That said, American qualified lawyers make more than British qualified lawyers at least from what I've heard. A friend who graduated several years before me told me that he had two friends who graduated in his year and both work at a magic circle firm in HK now. One went to Cornell and the other to Oxford to get their law degrees. The one who got his degree from Oxford makes less than (half as much?) as the one who got her degree from Cornell and is now regretting not going to law school in the states. I am not entirely sure how the Cornell law grad is licensed to practice in HK though. Also, both speak Asian languages natively. Without an Asian language, I think you will have a hard time finding a job in HK these days. I speak Cantonese but not Mandarin and I feel that I have missed out on a lot of job opportunities because of this.

At Oxford, Cambridge and HKU, you can get a law degree in 2 years if you have a prior degree. The HKU 2 year JD I am not so sure is highly regarded. The first class hasn't even graduated yet and I get the feeling that its a cash cow more than anything. If you have a look at their timetable this year, you'll notice that there isn't a fixed schedule (i.e. MWF 1-3 Contracts or whatever), its touch and go (June 1st 1-3, June 3rd 11-1 Contracts etc). The profs giving a presentation on the programme pretty much admitted that they don't have enough space and slot the JD classes into whenever there is availability.

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youpiiz
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby youpiiz » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:49 am

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Last edited by youpiiz on Thu Jun 17, 2010 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Fri Jun 11, 2010 11:44 am

A two-year "J.D." sure sounds wonky to me, especially in a jurisdiction where you don't need a J.D. to practice. I'd check to be sure that that isn't more akin to an LL.M. And etlien, you're absolutely right that knowledge of either Cantonese or Mandarin (or even both) is probably a must for getting picked up these days. But can I ask: do the two lawyers you know with different pay scales both work at the same firm? (I ask because I'm considering going for an LL.M. after my J.D., and am strongly leaning towards going to a British school over an American one).

etlien
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby etlien » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:00 pm

MJMD wrote:A two-year "J.D." sure sounds wonky to me, especially in a jurisdiction where you don't need a J.D. to practice. I'd check to be sure that that isn't more akin to an LL.M. And etlien, you're absolutely right that knowledge of either Cantonese or Mandarin (or even both) is probably a must for getting picked up these days. But can I ask: do the two lawyers you know with different pay scales both work at the same firm? (I ask because I'm considering going for an LL.M. after my J.D., and am strongly leaning towards going to a British school over an American one).


I think the 'JD' thing is just to distinguish it from the 3 year LLB.

The two lawyers are friends of a friend so I don't know the details, but yes they work at the same Magic Circle firm. Which British school are leaning towards?

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:19 pm

etlien wrote:
MJMD wrote:A two-year "J.D." sure sounds wonky to me, especially in a jurisdiction where you don't need a J.D. to practice. I'd check to be sure that that isn't more akin to an LL.M. And etlien, you're absolutely right that knowledge of either Cantonese or Mandarin (or even both) is probably a must for getting picked up these days. But can I ask: do the two lawyers you know with different pay scales both work at the same firm? (I ask because I'm considering going for an LL.M. after my J.D., and am strongly leaning towards going to a British school over an American one).


I think the 'JD' thing is just to distinguish it from the 3 year LLB.

The two lawyers are friends of a friend so I don't know the details, but yes they work at the same Magic Circle firm. Which British school are leaning towards?


Lol, I think it should be obvious, but what with it being four years away and all, I don't want to jinx it.

Isn't the 3-year LL.B. itself an accelerated program, though? My understanding is that an LL.B. is just an ordinary bachelor's degree, and ordinarily takes 4 years to complete, but that those with previous undergraduate degrees can take it in 3 (presumably by eliminating electives and breadth requirements and the like); the end result is that you're in school for the same amount of time, albeit receiving a slightly lower level of instruction (for the benefit of those straight out of high school). If a J.D. is predicated on the idea of having a previous degree, I don't see how you can shorten it further than that, unless you're treating it more like an LL.M. or S.J.D. (i.e., as a purely academic degree that is not in and of itself likely to lead to practice).

etlien
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby etlien » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:39 pm

MJMD wrote:
etlien wrote:
MJMD wrote:A two-year "J.D." sure sounds wonky to me, especially in a jurisdiction where you don't need a J.D. to practice. I'd check to be sure that that isn't more akin to an LL.M. And etlien, you're absolutely right that knowledge of either Cantonese or Mandarin (or even both) is probably a must for getting picked up these days. But can I ask: do the two lawyers you know with different pay scales both work at the same firm? (I ask because I'm considering going for an LL.M. after my J.D., and am strongly leaning towards going to a British school over an American one).


I think the 'JD' thing is just to distinguish it from the 3 year LLB.

The two lawyers are friends of a friend so I don't know the details, but yes they work at the same Magic Circle firm. Which British school are leaning towards?


Lol, I think it should be obvious, but what with it being four years away and all, I don't want to jinx it.

Isn't the 3-year LL.B. itself an accelerated program, though? My understanding is that an LL.B. is just an ordinary bachelor's degree, and ordinarily takes 4 years to complete, but that those with previous undergraduate degrees can take it in 3 (presumably by eliminating electives and breadth requirements and the like); the end result is that you're in school for the same amount of time, albeit receiving a slightly lower level of instruction (for the benefit of those straight out of high school). If a J.D. is predicated on the idea of having a previous degree, I don't see how you can shorten it further than that, unless you're treating it more like an LL.M. or S.J.D. (i.e., as a purely academic degree that is not in and of itself likely to lead to practice).


I had a brain freeze moment...HK unis are in the process of transitioning to 4 years for undergrad. LLB in the UK (and previously in HK) is 3 years. Of course there is an additional year for PCLL but I would hardly call that school. The HKU JD involves a summer start and a half summer of courses between 1L and 2L, so you do make up some time there. I don't think its that unreasonable to squeeze a law degree into 2 years. Northwestern does a 2 year accelerated JD (not sure if you have to do summers). Penn, Cornell, Duke amongst others do 3 year JD/MAs and JD/MBAs so you are really in law school for 2/2.5 years in those cases.

Another route you might be interested in is the 'conversion course', its quite popular in the UK, not so sure if it even exists in HK, never heard of someone doing it in HK. I think its a good road to go down if you want to practice in an area related to your UG degree. For example, someone I went to high school with got his UG degree in the sciences (biochem I think) and is doing conversion as he wants to practice pharmaceutical/IP law.

I don't think LLMs are useful in general for practice unless you (a) went to a shit law school and want to upgrade or (b) got your first law degree in a different country from the one were you want to practice.

HollywoodA
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:15 pm

MJMD wrote:A two-year "J.D." sure sounds wonky to me, especially in a jurisdiction where you don't need a J.D. to practice. I'd check to be sure that that isn't more akin to an LL.M. And etlien, you're absolutely right that knowledge of either Cantonese or Mandarin (or even both) is probably a must for getting picked up these days. But can I ask: do the two lawyers you know with different pay scales both work at the same firm? (I ask because I'm considering going for an LL.M. after my J.D., and am strongly leaning towards going to a British school over an American one).


HKU phased out their 3 year accelerated LL.B. and replaced it with the 2-year J.D, so they are essentially the same thing.


After doing some research, it appears that I would have to sit for the LNAT, which is similar to the LSAT, to apply to good U.K schools, so I don't see much advantage in doing a program in the UK over the US to land in HK, especially if I'm likely to be paid higher with a US JD. If the HKU JD was any good, that would be a game changer, but it sounds like, from here, it's not that great.

etlien wrote:Another route you might be interested in is the 'conversion course', its quite popular in the UK, not so sure if it even exists in HK, never heard of someone doing it in HK. I think its a good road to go down if you want to practice in an area related to your UG degree. For example, someone I went to high school with got his UG degree in the sciences (biochem I think) and is doing conversion as he wants to practice pharmaceutical/IP law.


I would be interested in this, but from the list of institutions that offer the conversion courses, none of the schools seemed to have a a high-level reputation, or at least I wasn't aware of one. If that would be a problem and I could still land a good job in HK that way, I'd be all for it.

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iShotFirst
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby iShotFirst » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:36 pm

Spoken as someone who has lived in many different countries including countries in East and Southeast Asia, one semester as a student studying abroad in a place is a very different experience than actually living and working in a place. Not enough time to get culture shock, everyone wants to meet and talk to you, etc. Its very different once you progress into regular working life.

By all means shoot for Hong Kong but just be careful throwing all of your plans and money in that direction when your only experience of it is in a study abroad environment.

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:42 pm

HollywoodA wrote:
etlien wrote:Another route you might be interested in is the 'conversion course', its quite popular in the UK, not so sure if it even exists in HK, never heard of someone doing it in HK. I think its a good road to go down if you want to practice in an area related to your UG degree. For example, someone I went to high school with got his UG degree in the sciences (biochem I think) and is doing conversion as he wants to practice pharmaceutical/IP law.


I would be interested in this, but from the list of institutions that offer the conversion courses, none of the schools seemed to have a a high-level reputation, or at least I wasn't aware of one. If that would be a problem and I could still land a good job in HK that way, I'd be all for it.


The reputation of the schools offering the conversion courses is really irrelevant: if you wanted to practice law in the UK, you would have to go to one anyway, as they are the same schools that run the Legal Practice Course for solicitors and the Bar Professional Training Course for barristers. These courses, from what I hear, bear little resemblance to American “law school”; they are still primarily overseen and administered by the legal profession, and are distinguished from “law school” by being referred to as “bar school.” Even if you did not take a conversion course and instead spent 2 to 3 years earning a law degree, you would still have to go to one of these schools for a year of "bar school" if you wanted to practice in Britain; or, in the case of Hong Kong, you would still have to go to “bar school” (th P.C.L.L.) at one of the three universities in the city.*

The bad news is that, as etlien suggested, there do not appear to be conversion courses offered in Hong Kong; the good news is that Hong Kong, remarkably, still recognizes British conversion courses for entry to the P.C.L.L! So you could theoretically go to London with your current undergraduate degree, take a conversion course (it’s a few weeks or something), get your diploma, then fly directly to Hong Kong and enrol in the P.C.L.L. at HKU (“bar school,” not “law school”). One year later you’re good to practice law, so long as you’re good to stay in the territory. Whether or not you would really be prepared to practice after such an intense crash course is another story, but you’d buy yourself a lot of extra time to learn on your feet.

By the way, if you were to do that, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the former Inns of Court Law School: even though it’s now under the aegis of the mediocre City University of London, for reasons that are unknown to me, it still retains a lot of prestige. Most famous lawyers in England prior to the 19th century would have been prepared for the profession there, probably after taking degrees completely unrelated to law at Oxford or Cambridge. It’s sort of like the most illustrious trade school imaginable.

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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:14 pm

Incidentally, one used to have to do “bar school” in Upper Canada as well, at the old Osgoode Hall in Toronto, before the study of law became almost entirely academic, as it is in the States. The one year of “articling” that Canadians are required to undertake is a vestigial remnant of the apprenticeships still required after “bar school” in the rest of the Commonwealth. I recently read a very interesting article by a “Red Tory” former professor from the University of Western Ontario lamenting the adoption in Canada of American-style legal education, and the freezing out of the legal profession itself from the decision-making process. The Law Societies themselves used to be entirely in control of how may lawyers would be admitted to the Bar, and they tended to sharply restrict their numbers.

This is one reason why there are not yet any “TTTs” in Canada: historically, there would have been no point in going to one if you knew the Law Society would never let you in anyway. Of course they wouldn’t let you in if you were black or Jewish or a Jehovah’s Witness, either, so it’s probably good that they’ve been taken out of the loop. One wonders if, now that the “bar schools” in the UK have been formally placed under the control of 3rd tier British universities, they may be slowly taking the same route. But the control of the profession by the profession in Britain is the main reason Oxford and Cambridge grads still dominate the top chambers there, and why something like 75% of those who take the BPTC can’t find a pupillage afterward.

Anyway, I just wrote this to demonstrate how exceptional a system American legal education is, or used to be. In the rest of the Commonwealth, outside of Canada, your alma mater still matters, but your law school doesn’t have to. You don’t have to go to law school at all. Law is something you do, not necessarily something you study.

HollywoodA
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby HollywoodA » Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:29 pm

iShotFirst wrote:Spoken as someone who has lived in many different countries including countries in East and Southeast Asia, one semester as a student studying abroad in a place is a very different experience than actually living and working in a place. Not enough time to get culture shock, everyone wants to meet and talk to you, etc. Its very different once you progress into regular working life.

By all means shoot for Hong Kong but just be careful throwing all of your plans and money in that direction when your only experience of it is in a study abroad environment.


That's a good point, and the flexibility of a JD from a top American school would be great in this regard. However, I think I got a good feel for the city in my 5 months and that my reasons for wanting to be there are pretty good. Basically I felt like I fit in better there in many different ways. If doing a program in the UK or HK would make it easier to land in HK, or (because it would get me there quicker) just as easy, despite their preclusive effects, I would be all for it.

MJMD wrote:
HollywoodA wrote:
etlien wrote:Another route you might be interested in is the 'conversion course', its quite popular in the UK, not so sure if it even exists in HK, never heard of someone doing it in HK. I think its a good road to go down if you want to practice in an area related to your UG degree. For example, someone I went to high school with got his UG degree in the sciences (biochem I think) and is doing conversion as he wants to practice pharmaceutical/IP law.


I would be interested in this, but from the list of institutions that offer the conversion courses, none of the schools seemed to have a a high-level reputation, or at least I wasn't aware of one. If that would be a problem and I could still land a good job in HK that way, I'd be all for it.


The reputation of the schools offering the conversion courses is really irrelevant: if you wanted to practice law in the UK, you would have to go to one anyway, as they are the same schools that run the Legal Practice Course for solicitors and the Bar Professional Training Course for barristers. These courses, from what I hear, bear little resemblance to American “law school”; they are still primarily overseen and administered by the legal profession, and are distinguished from “law school” by being referred to as “bar school.” Even if you did not take a conversion course and instead spent 2 to 3 years earning a law degree, you would still have to go to one of these schools for a year of "bar school" if you wanted to practice in Britain; or, in the case of Hong Kong, you would still have to go to “bar school” (th P.C.L.L.) at one of the three universities in the city.*

The bad news is that, as etlien suggested, there do not appear to be conversion courses offered in Hong Kong; the good news is that Hong Kong, remarkably, still recognizes British conversion courses for entry to the P.C.L.L! So you could theoretically go to London with your current undergraduate degree, take a conversion course (it’s a few weeks or something), get your diploma, then fly directly to Hong Kong and enrol in the P.C.L.L. at HKU (“bar school,” not “law school”). One year later you’re good to practice law, so long as you’re good to stay in the territory. Whether or not you would really be prepared to practice after such an intense crash course is another story, but you’d buy yourself a lot of extra time to learn on your feet.

By the way, if you were to do that, I wouldn’t settle for anything less than the former Inns of Court Law School: even though it’s now under the aegis of the mediocre City University of London, for reasons that are unknown to me, it still retains a lot of prestige. Most famous lawyers in England prior to the 19th century would have been prepared for the profession there, probably after taking degrees completely unrelated to law at Oxford or Cambridge. It’s sort of like the most illustrious trade school imaginable.



That is an interesting option. I guess at the very least it would let me live for a year in the UK and another year in HK, which would be cool in it of itself, and all the while I could network and examine my other options, leveraging my undergrad degree. I’m just wondering about the realistic job prospects from such a move. It seems hard enough to land a position from Harvard or Oxford as a non-citizen, non-Chinese speaker, let alone a program like this. But, I’m also curious as to whether going through bar school and passing the PCLL would have any indirect value, such as making for a more attractive application to a prestigious American law school or job, etc. in case I didn’t end up getting a position in HK, thus making it not a complete waste of time and money.

I’m also unclear about your recommendation for the City University of London. Before you mentioned that the choice of school offering the conversion course is irrelevant, so why the adamancy for this particular program?

orbitaround
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby orbitaround » Fri Jun 11, 2010 3:41 pm

on a plane. boat could work too, but we're talking best.

MJMD
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby MJMD » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:06 pm

Because it's the Inns of Court:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inns_of_Court

You have to eat a certain number of dinners there before you can become a member! It's like a prestigious private club that you have to belong to. The fact that ICSL is now technically under "City University of London" (since about ten years ago, and courtesy of Labour) is irrelevant; nobody who goes there even mentions "City University" on their resume, they just put down "Inns of Court School of Law" and everyone knows what they're talking about. They've been preparing well-heeled, well-educated gentlemen for the practice of law in Gray's Inn for hundreds of years.

Remember, it's not really a "law school:" my understanding is that you're being tutored more or less directly by the Inns and/or the Law Society of England & Wales, not by university professors. So it's really all about the people you interact with, and I suspect that the ones you would interact with at ICSL would be the best. The reputation of "City University of London" is irrelevant because the University is (at present) just playing host to this professional education, without meddling in it very much. That may, unfortunately, change in the near future, if British legal education begins to follow American trends in the way Canada has.

Honestly, I don't think the conversion course/P.C.L.L. option enhances your prospects for employment. The primary benefit to it is the immediate and dramatic time savings, and the opportunity to thumb your nose at further academia, if you've become allergic to it. Doing it via ICSL and the University of Hong Kong is the fanciest possible way to get it done, but when it's over you'll still be trading almost entirely on the strength of your undergraduate degree (so I hope you went to a really good school).

The conversion route will not help you get picked up by a big Magic Circle or White Shoe firm there. The most surefire way to do that is to follow the route described earlier: get a good U.S. J.D., or possibly a good UK LL.B., get hired by a firm with offices in Hong Kong, learn Cantonese and/or Mandarin, put in a few years with your firm while repeatedly making clear your desire to work in Hong Kong, and get transferred to work there as a foreign attorney.

If you truly love Hong Kong as much as you say you do, though, and want to go there right now, then the conversion route gets you there almost immediately. I would say that you would have to be willing to be there even if you were not employed as a lawyer, as you might struggle to find work until you have learned the language and made a few connections. You would have to be willing to live like a local person. However, I think you might earn a more genuine appreciation for the city and its people this way. You would demonstrate a level of commitment to the place not necessarily evident in people who waited three years to get a degree somewhere else, and while American students would still be cramming for exams on campuses stateside (and accruing more and more debt), you would be hustling for work, making money, and building contacts. And if you managed to establish a Hong Kong practice in your own right then I think you become a very, very attractive hire for major foreign firms in the city (if, indeed you were even interested in working for them by the time they came knocking)

etlien
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Re: Best Way to Land in Hong Kong (as an American)

Postby etlien » Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:12 am

MJMD wrote:Because it's the Inns of Court:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inns_of_Court

You have to eat a certain number of dinners there before you can become a member! It's like a prestigious private club that you have to belong to. The fact that ICSL is now technically under "City University of London" (since about ten years ago, and courtesy of Labour) is irrelevant; nobody who goes there even mentions "City University" on their resume, they just put down "Inns of Court School of Law" and everyone knows what they're talking about. They've been preparing well-heeled, well-educated gentlemen for the practice of law in Gray's Inn for hundreds of years.

Remember, it's not really a "law school:" my understanding is that you're being tutored more or less directly by the Inns and/or the Law Society of England & Wales, not by university professors. So it's really all about the people you interact with, and I suspect that the ones you would interact with at ICSL would be the best. The reputation of "City University of London" is irrelevant because the University is (at present) just playing host to this professional education, without meddling in it very much. That may, unfortunately, change in the near future, if British legal education begins to follow American trends in the way Canada has.

Honestly, I don't think the conversion course/P.C.L.L. option enhances your prospects for employment. The primary benefit to it is the immediate and dramatic time savings, and the opportunity to thumb your nose at further academia, if you've become allergic to it. Doing it via ICSL and the University of Hong Kong is the fanciest possible way to get it done, but when it's over you'll still be trading almost entirely on the strength of your undergraduate degree (so I hope you went to a really good school).

The conversion route will not help you get picked up by a big Magic Circle or White Shoe firm there. The most surefire way to do that is to follow the route described earlier: get a good U.S. J.D., or possibly a good UK LL.B., get hired by a firm with offices in Hong Kong, learn Cantonese and/or Mandarin, put in a few years with your firm while repeatedly making clear your desire to work in Hong Kong, and get transferred to work there as a foreign attorney.

If you truly love Hong Kong as much as you say you do, though, and want to go there right now, then the conversion route gets you there almost immediately. I would say that you would have to be willing to be there even if you were not employed as a lawyer, as you might struggle to find work until you have learned the language and made a few connections. You would have to be willing to live like a local person. However, I think you might earn a more genuine appreciation for the city and its people this way. You would demonstrate a level of commitment to the place not necessarily evident in people who waited three years to get a degree somewhere else, and while American students would still be cramming for exams on campuses stateside (and accruing more and more debt), you would be hustling for work, making money, and building contacts. And if you managed to establish a Hong Kong practice in your own right then I think you become a very, very attractive hire for major foreign firms in the city (if, indeed you were even interested in working for them by the time they came knocking)


Personally, I don't think the conversion course is going to lock you out of Magic Circle; I think I have seen profiles of solicitors who 'converted' on Magic Circle websites. They may have been lateral hires after building up a book of business elsewhere though. I know of at least two Oxford graduates who are doing conversion courses in London now. That said, Conversion is going to be a step down in terms of prestige. I do think it would the better way to go if you are interested in a niche area, such as IP, and you have expertise in that area, such as a UG degree. Boutiques are probably not fussed about where you got your law degree, only that you have the technical knowledge in the field.

I have to echo the comments of posters above, in a client facing profession such as lawyering, you really need to speak the local language even if the language of business is English. There are still clients who do not speak English, do you think they would go with a lawyer who spoke Chinese or the one who spoke only English (if they were of the same calibre). Furthermore, knowing the local language is going to be key in networking.

If you are sure you want to live in HK despite not having Chinese skills, go into a non-client facing function in a bank, e.g. trading or risk management. You will be paid a salary on which you can live the expat lifestyle. By expat lifestyle I pretty much mean stick to Central/Wanchai/TST or one of the expat outposts like Discovery Bay or Sai Kung. Its completely doable, I pretty much work/socialise in Central and TST only and could get away with speaking only English if I wanted to. I also went to school with a lot of children of expats or families who have been in the city for generations, who did not speak a word of Canto. You just have to accept that you are not going to be 'integrating' yourself into the local community and living like a local.




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