The study of law as a second degree is becoming increasingly popular among professionals in Hong Kong who have already been trained in another discipline. Some may have plans to change career and actually practise as a lawyer, but others just want to be better equipped to handle their current jobs, or are simply studying for personal interest.
"Many people find their work involves legal issues and principles," says Vicky Lai, manager of the School of Professional Education and Executive Development (SPEED) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "Besides helping to understand those aspects, studying under our programme also improves analytical abilities and mental dexterity." The current enrolment includes accountants, finance executives, police officers, social workers, court clerks and government employees.
The school organised its first part-time preparatory programme for the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 2003. It was linked to an external programme offered by the University of London and 130 students signed up in the first year. That total jumped to 350 in 2005 and Hong Kong now has the highest number of students taking the degree among the 110 countries which participate. Ms Lai attributes this to the quality of the course content and teaching, and the fact that the qualification is so widely recognised. A graduation ceremony for the first class of graduates will be held in December.
A recently signed five-year collaboration agreement with Singapore's Intech Training Centre (ITC) and Malaysia's Kemayan Advance Tertiary College (KATC) will provide high quality teaching, while SPEED will continue to manage the programme. The average exam pass rate for KATC and ITC law students is 90 per cent, and around 60 per cent of their students have been awarded first-class honours in the past seven years.
However, Ms Lai points out that success for students depends on them having the self-discipline to work systematically. "Students must be prepared for the challenges of the examinations and, therefore, we provide intensive revision sessions for them, she says."
The course covers 12 different subjects and it normally takes non-degree holders at least three years to complete. Students with a first degree are required to complete nine subjects in a minimum of two years.