It’s week five of my six month secondment in Hong Kong and, once again, grey outside, with a chance of thunderstorms. The gloomy weather is in no way a reflection of my first few weeks here, however. The city is vibrant, buzzy and fun and I still pinch myself waking up to my view from the 25th floor.
My morning commute is a short stroll down one of Hong Kong Island’s main arteries - known locally as the escalator - which pumps commuters up and down the hilly isle all day.
I have an early start today so grab a quick coffee from one of the new independent coffee shops in Central for a morning wake up (there is an exciting artisan coffee culture here). I’m at my desk by 9 and after a quick flick through my emails, get to work on one of my main matters. It’s a large arbitration for a leading fashion brand with a growing presence in China.
Hong Kong is a gateway to the Chinese retail and manufacturing market and the current downturn means that there are plenty of disputes around. Arbitration is a common form of dispute resolution and I’m involved with interviewing witnesses and preparing witness statements for the forthcoming hearing. There's plenty of responsibility as I've been tasked with preparing our interview plan and questions for one of the witnesses and will have a go at the first draft of their statement.
Having spent my third seat on secondment at an international sports retailer, I'm lucky enough to have a good grasp of some of the commercial and retail aspects of the matter, which helped me to quickly get up to speed when I joined the team.
After lunch I catch up with the other trainees to discuss this year's Dragon Boat festival competition. This is the annual race of over a 1,000 teams of ‘paddlers’, held on the country's Tueng Ng public holiday. Despite my lack of biceps, I somehow ended up in RPC's final 18.
I was also involved with the race organising committee along with the trainees and our marine team’s ‘master mariner’. I’m responsible for arranging the firm's 'junk'; a yacht we'll moor next to the race area on the day. After agreeing our latest to do list, including an ambitious promotional origami flyer, it’s back to work on my other main matter: a court action in respect of a global product distributor.
It’s a large, long-running case with lots of issues and multiple parties. This meant that earlier in the week I got to go to a hearing of a preliminary matter in the High Court, delivered by two of Hong Kong's leading silks. My main task has been to prepare a chart containing the main pleadings, so we can compare each party's position. This is client facing so today I'm ensuring the final formatting is consistent.
I’ve found local litigation straightforward to adapt to, perhaps unsurprising given that along with other former British colonies, Hong Kong’s legal system is borrowed from the UK. I finish my task - an attendance note of the hearing – and, as the city lights up for the evening, it’s time to head back up the escalator. Being a city that doesn’t sleep, there’s (always) time for a quick pit stop to meet some of the other seconded trainees.
Before I flew out, I was linked with the other 50 or so trainees from UK firms on secondment here, so was lucky enough to have an instant group of contacts. This has been great for exploring the city and finding travel companions to visit some of the many countries on Hong Kong's doorstep. After a few drinks (another early start tomorrow) I hop back on the escalator and thoughts turn to packing for my weekend away - a quick trip over to the Philippines. Hong Kong will be here to welcome me back on Sunday.