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CODE OF CONDUCT

FEES
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120. A barrister should be separately instructed and remunerated by a separate fee for each item of work which he undertakes. The fee marked on a brief covers perusal of the brief as well as the preparation and conduct of the case in Court. Refreshers, if any, must be agreed before the hearing and may, but need not, be marked on the brief.

120A. It is improper for a barrister to accept a gift of money from a lay client in addition to a brief fee provided that interest on unpaid fees, if so agreed, would not be considered as a gift of money. (Circular No. 72/97)

121. A barrister may not undertake to represent any person, authority or organisation for a fixed salary; and he may not accept a fixed fee for advising over a fixed period; nor, save in specific circumstances which may be authorised by the Bar Council, may he accept a single brief marked with a single fee to appear on behalf of a client in more than one case or matter.

122. A barrister shall not be deemed to have accepted a brief or to have acquiesced in any fee marked on it until he has had a reasonable opportunity to examine the contents of the brief and to consider other matters relevant to the fee for the purpose of determining the adequacy thereof.

123. When a brief has been accepted with knowledge of its contents and other matters relevant to the fee, no request may be made for the fee to be increased unless circumstances arise which increase substantially the burden and responsibility on the barrister concerned. In any case where an increase of the original fee is considered to be justified, the person instructing him in the matter must be so informed without delay, and, save in exceptional circumstances, no request for an increase of the original fee may be made at a time so close to the hearing of the case that the person instructing him in the matter would be prejudiced in electing to brief another barrister.

124. A barrister may not accept a brief or instructions on terms that payment of fees shall depend upon or be related to a contingency. For the avoidance of doubt nothing in this rule shall prevent a member from accepting payment of his fees by installments and payment of interest on his fees either as agreed or allowed on taxation. (Circular No. 040/04)

125. In privately-paid cases, it is proper for a barrister to discuss and agree the amount of the fee personally with the person instructing him in the matter. But he may also do so through his clerk or secretary.

126. It is the duty of a barrister to remunerate his staff as may be agreed between them, provided that no barrister shall share or agree to share with any person (including his clerk) his fees by paying a commission or otherwise a percentage of the barrister's earnings.

127. The following sub-paragraphs are for the information and guidance of barristers:-

(a) Agreement was reached between the Bar Council and the Council of the Law Society in 1980 relating to "Payment of Counsel's Fees" and "Marking of Counsel's Diary". Details were contained in Circular No. 6/81 subject to the "Revision to Principle 12.04: Solicitors Personally Responsible For Barristers' Fees" contained in Circular No. 27/97 sent to all members of the Law Society of Hong Kong and are reproduced here as Annex 18(i) and (ii).

(b) It was further agreed between the Bar Council and the Council of the Law Society that a barrister may submit fee notes to instructing solicitors as soon as any particular piece of work is completed, e.g., after the settling of pleadings, the giving of opinions or the holding of a conference, and shall in any event submit, within 2 weeks, a note in relation to outstanding fees when requested so to do by his instructing solicitors. This agreement does not apply to cases where the barrister's fees have been agreed at a lump sum for a particular matter which is uncompleted. Further the Law Society of Hong Kong has agreed that it is not intended that any particular penalty will be imposed if the fee note is not submitted within the time limit specified above.

(c) In the case of Direct Professional Access work, it has been agreed between the Bar Council and the recognised professional bodies that (i) a barrister shall be entitled to require payment of his fees at the time of accepting instructions; (ii) an interim fee note of the barrister may be submitted at intervals of not less than two months; and (iii) the barrister's fees shall be paid or challenged promptly and in any event within two months of the submission of his fee note.

(d) The Bar Council and the Council of the Law Society have agreed to set up a joint tribunal to adjudicate disputes regarding counsel's fees. The terms of reference and procedure of the Joint Tribunal are reproduced here as Annex 18(iii).

[The next paragraph number is 130.]

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