Bar comes to rescue of young lawyers

Local | Michael Shum and Justin Tong 31 Mar 2020

The Bar Association will be offering interest-free loans to young barristers as court trials come to a halt due to the Covid-19.

This came after most hearings, except essential and emergency ones, were called off in a general adjournment that started on January 29. Court trials will not resume before April 13.

The Bar, headed by Philip Dykes, said last night it will provide short-term loans to those admitted in or after 2013.

"The Bar Association will monitor the take-up rate and operation of the scheme in light of the public health situation during the general adjournment period and its effect on members. It will decide if any other measures are required to assist members."

Applicants can get a loan, capped at HK$36,000, as early as April 10.

Repayments are in six monthly installments commencing July 15.

The news came after barristers complained that the court stoppage left them jobless, or with drastic income drops, while still having to meet rent payments.

The Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong also called for financial assistance to come from the anti-epidemic fund in view of operational difficulties at small law firms.

The Bar urged Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah to give direct cash assistance of HK$80,000 to HK$200,000 to law firms.

"The legal sector is affected severely by the pandemic, resulting in a sharp decline of income for solicitors and barristers," the Bar said Thursday. "Some in the sector have no income."

It also demanded the department of justice pay interim lawyer fees for those who have offered legal advice and services during the processing of cases.

The HK$30 billion special fund is already supporting essential sectors, including Hospital Authority staff and frontline workers in the property management sector such as cleaners and security guards.

More industries have urged the government to expand the scope of beneficiaries, including the auditing, beauty, education and aviation sectors, as well as caretakers, social enterprises, freelancers and the unemployed.

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