Role of Counsel

Counsel act as independent specialist legal advisors and advocates. To ensure objectiveness and independence, they can only be instructed by referral from solicitors.

Barristers, often referred to as counsel, are specialised advocates and legal advisors. Apart from arguing cases in courts, barristers also provide legal advice, for example, the merits of an intended claim or appeal.

Barristers enjoyed an unlimited right of audience in Hong Kong and may appear in all levels of courts in Hong Kong (except for the Small Claim Tribunal). Barristers may also appear before most statutory boards and tribunals. For example, acting on behalf of the defendant doctors or the complainant in a disciplinary inquiry of the Medical Council of Hong Kong.

Limited Access

As a referral profession, barristers can only be engaged by lay clients through a solicitor. Bound by strict professional conduct, barristers must only provide legal service upon the instructions of a solicitor, the Director of Legal Aid, the government, or recognised professional bodies (For example, accountants, company secretaries, surveyors, and engineers).

Barristers are also authorised to provide pro bono legal advice directly to the public through recognised schemes such as the Duty Lawyer Service, or the Bar Free Legal Service Scheme.

For more information, refer to paras 5.16, 5.17, and Annex 3 – 4 of the Code of Conduct of the Bar Association of Hong Kong.


While barristers are required to practice as a member of professional chambers, they are independent legal practitioners and sole-proprietors. As such, members of the same chambers may act for opposite parties in the same matter, where measures are in place to prevent conflict of interest. For more information, refer to paras 5.15, 10.3 of the Code of Conduct of the Bar Association of Hong Kong.


Barristers, as legal professionals, are bound by professional conduct in maintaining strict confidentiality. Communications between lawyers and clients are also protected by legal professional privilege. For more information, refer to para 7.13 of the Code of Conduct of the Bar Association of Hong Kong and Article 35 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

More about barristers in Hong Kong

To learn more about the role and work of barristers, the Bar Association of Hong Kong has a dedicated page on this issue.

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