Section 53(3) of Legal Practitioners Ordinance

The first area relates to the question of whether prior approval should still be obtained from the Law Society for employment by a law firm of a person whose criminal conviction involving dishonesty has been spent.

Under section 53(3) of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance (the "LPO"), a law firm is prohibited from knowingly employing or remunerating any person who has been convicted of a criminal offence involving dishonesty without the permission of the Law Society. Section 3(1)(c) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 297) (the "ROO") states that nothing under section 2 of the ROO (which provides protection to rehabilitated persons by allowing a person's previous criminal conviction to be spent) shall effect on the operation of any law under which the person is subject to prohibition. In other words, a law firm must apply for the Law Societyˇs permission before it can employ or remunerate any person who has criminal conviction involving dishonesty even where the criminal conviction of that person may have been spent.

The Law Society periodically issues, by way of Circulars, lists of names to which section 53(3) of the LPO applies to remind members that prior permission from the Law Society is required for employing or remunerating any of those names. However, the lists of names attached to the Circulars are not exhaustive. A law firm should also make enquiry with potential candidates on their previous record to ensure compliance with section 53(3). Any solicitor who breaches this section may be struck off the roll of solicitors or suspended from practice for such period as a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal may think fit.

Extracted from an article authored by Ms. Heidi Chu, Secretary General, in “From the Secretariat” in the July 2014 issue of Hong Kong Lawyer.