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Teaching the Value of Legal Ethics

From Greater China Region to Greater Bay Area: Promoting Legal Professionalism Development beyond Hong Kong

In 2005, Dr Richard Wu of Department of Professional Legal Education organised an international conference on professional legal ethics, which was held consecutively in HKU Faculty of Law and Tsinghua University School of Law. In the past sixteen years, Dr Wu has developed his vision of promoting legal professionalism beyond Hong Kong. 

To accomplish such vision of promoting legal professionalism throughout the Greater China Region, Dr Wu undertook an empirical and comparative study of about 1,000 law students across the region to investigate their values and career orientations. He found that law students in Hong Kong, Beijing and Taipei shared a materialistic career orientation, and that all three could improve their legal professionalism by placing more emphasis on legal ethics education in their legal studies.

Rather than considering legal ethics as a matter of rules that must be followed — as was traditionally the case across much of the region — Dr Wu has developed a new model of teaching around the idea that legal ethics should be treated as a matter of values. 

Dr Wu’s vision of promoting legal professionalism was key to the development of new legal ethics courses in three major universities in the Greater China Region: School of Transnational Law, Peking University in Mainland China, HKU Faculty of Law in Hong Kong, and National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University School of Law in Taiwan. As an Adjunct Professor in both Mainland China and Taiwan as well as Associate Professor in Hong Kong, he retains close ties with law schools in Greater China Region. Dr Wu’s research on the values of law students in the region has promoted awareness of the importance of legal professionalism and helped develop legal ethics education across the Greater China Region and his courses have been extremely well received by the law students who have taken them. The courses are designed on a value-based experiential learning model that includes innovative use of technology, sharing on legal ethics issues by global lawyers and global law professors, innovative reflective learning and pioneering visual teaching aids. 

Students reported higher awareness and more direct engagement with legal professionalism. 100% of students agreed that the courses were extremely useful in helping them understand legal ethics, and 70% said the courses had helped them understand or focus more on legal ethics. More than 80% rated Dr Wu’s course as extremely or very good and the same percentage were very satisfied with the course content. 

One of a small number of legal scholars globally to have studied common law and Chinese law at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, Dr Wu studied law at top universities in Hong Kong, London and Beijing. He shared his research findings at international legal ethics conferences and in top academic journals such as The China Quarterly. He is also co-authoring a book titled Good Chinese Lawyers to be published by Cambridge University Press, which is expected to become a legal ethics textbook for law schools in Greater China Region and Greater Bay Area. 

Dr Richard Wai Sang Wu of the Department of Professional Legal Education received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2021 of the Faculty of Law for the project From Research into Values of Future Lawyers to Promoting Legal Professionalism in Greater China Region: Informing and Implementing Legal Ethics Education in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan’.

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