Career opportunities for legal professionals

Government Counsel Grade

A career as Government Counsel in the Department of Justice offers a unique opportunity to apply and develop your professional ability in a diverse and challenging job, which would not be available in the private sector, including working with various bureaux, departments as well as enforcement agencies and participating in legal decisions and processes concerning matters of public importance. We invite applications from both newly qualified lawyers and those with experience. We offer considerable job satisfaction, competitive salaries and fringe benefits, with good prospects for promotion to higher positions. More information about the Government Counsel post can be found here.

Grade Structure and Establishment

The Government Counsel Grade comprises the following six ranks and the establishment as at 31 December 2015 is as follows –

No. of posts
Law Officer (DL*6)
Principal Government Counsel (DL3)
Deputy Principal Government Counsel (DL2)
Assistant Principal Government Counsel (DL1)
Senior Government Counsel (MPS* Pt. 45-49)
Government Counsel (MPS Pt. 32-44)
# "DL" denotes Directorate (Legal) Pay Scale
  "MPS" denotes Master Pay Scale
* Supernumerary posts



There are over 350 counsel in the Department of Justice. They may be deployed to undertaking criminal advocacy, civil litigation, legal advisory work (criminal, civil and public international law), bilingual legislative drafting, commercial law, mutual legal assistance and legal policy work. A career as a Government Counsel may include at different times postings in any of the legal divisions in the Department – Civil Division, International Law Division, Law Drafting Division, Legal Policy Division and Prosecutions Division – for operational or career development purposes.

Find out more about the Department's work at About us > Organisation.

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Promotion Prospects and Training


Promotion will be made on the basis of character, ability, and experience. Depending on the merits of individual officers, generally a Government Counsel will be promoted to Senior Government Counsel in several years. The most capable and aspiring counsel will fill directorate positions in the longer run.


We attach great importance to staff development and training. To equip our counsel with the necessary knowledge and skills to discharge their duties more effectively and to prepare them for career advancement, we provide them with a wide range of training such as –

  • New recruits at Government Counsel rank will receive an induction course to help them attain a better understanding of their career as well as the structure and work of different divisions in the Department of Justice.
  • From time to time, legal, management and communication training (e.g. workshops and seminars) will be organised in-house, or conducted by local institutes and the Civil Service Training & Development Institute for our counsel.
  • To keep abreast of the latest legal development, counsel will have opportunities to participate in a range of law seminars, conferences and law-related training programmes.
  • Counsel may be sponsored to attend law-related courses outside office hours on a course-fee refund basis.
  • Counsel may be nominated to attend national courses at Tsinghua University, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Governance as well as foreign affairs study programmes and thematic study programmes in the Mainland of China, so as to strengthen their understanding of the law and the legal environment in the Mainland.
  • Counsel may be arranged to attend overseas conference / workshop or other training programme in relation to the legal field to widen their exposure and knowledge.
  • Training attachments to justice bureaux in the Mainland or other common law countries may be arranged for counsel to widen their experience and enhance their knowledge of different legal systems.

Terms of Appointment and Conditions of Service

A new appointee to the Government Counsel rank will be appointed on civil service probationary terms for three years. Upon passage of probation bar, the officer may be considered for appointment on the prevailing permanent terms.

The entry pay for Government Counsel is the Master Pay Scale Point 32, currently $66,945. Subject to the prevailing situation, candidates may be considered for the granting of increments with additional relevant post-qualification experience above the stipulated minimum requirement. Counsel will also enjoy a range of fringe benefits, including paid leave, medical and dental benefits, and where appropriate, assistance in housing.

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Entry Requirements

For the basic entry requirements for the Government Counsel rank, candidates –

    1. must be -
      i. solicitors admitted in a recognised jurisdiction as stipulated under Section 2A and Schedule 2 of the Legal Officers Ordinance Note (1); or
      ii. barristers with one year’s professional experience since attaining the right to full practice in a recognised jurisdiction as stipulated under Section 2A and Schedule 2 of the Legal Officers Ordinance Note (1) and (2); and
    2. must have ‘Level 2’ result Note (3) in the Use of English Notes (4) and (5) paper and ‘Level 1’ result in the Use of Chinese Note (4) paper in the Common Recruitment Examination (CRE). Candidates without the requisite CRE results but who have met the other entry requirements may also apply. Appointment will be subject to their obtaining ‘Level 2’ in the Use of English paper and ‘Level 1’ in the Use of Chinese paper of the CRE by the time of the appointment. Candidates who do not have ‘Level 1’ in the Use of Chinese paper of the CRE by the time of appointment may also be appointed. However, only a limited number of applicants who do not possess the requisite Chinese language proficiency may be appointed subject to the operational needs of the Department. Please visit Civil Service Bureau’s homepage at for details of the CRE.
    Notes :
    1. Trainee solicitors/pupil barristers may also apply. Their appointment, however, will be subject to their admission as solicitors/barristers with satisfactory completion of pupilage. Please refer to the recruitment advertisement which will be issued in due course for further details.
    2. Barristers with right to full practice but who do not possess one year’s professional experience since attaining the right to full practice may also apply. If selected, they will enter at an appropriate point below the minimum of the Government Counsel pay scale.
    3. The results of the Use of Chinese (UC) and Use of English (UE) papers are classified as ‘Level 2’, ‘Level 1’ or ‘Fail’, with ‘Level 2’ being the highest.
    4. Level 5 or above in English Language of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSEE); or Grade C or above in Use of English of the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE); or Grade C or above in English Language of the General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level), are accepted as equivalent to Level 2 in the UE paper of the CRE. Besides, Level 4 in Chinese Language of the HKDSEE; or Grade D in Chinese Language and Culture or Chinese Language and Literature of the HKALE, are accepted as equivalent to Level 1 in the UC paper of the CRE.
    5. Candidates with an overall band of 6.5 or above with no subtest score below band 6 obtained in the same sitting in the Academic Module of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) within the two-year validity period of the test is considered as having met the English language proficiency requirement of the Government Counsel post.
    6. For the purpose of heightening public awareness of the Basic Law (BL) and promoting a culture of learning of BL in the community, assessment of BL knowledge will be included in the recruitment for all civil service jobs. Results of the BL test for degree/professional grades will be one of the considerations to assess the suitability of a candidate but will not affect his/her eligibility for applying for civil service jobs. As a general principle, the main consideration for suitability for appointment remains a candidate’s qualification, experience and calibre.

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Government Counsel Recruitment Exercise


Invitation to application detailing the application procedures and closing date for application will generally be advertised on Fridays in the Ming Pao and on Saturdays in the South China Morning Post as well as Hong Kong Lawyer around September each year. The advertisement will also be posted on the website of the Department of Justice.


A recruitment seminar will generally be held after the posting of recruitment advertisement. The last recruitment seminar was held on 11 September 2019.

The application period for the 2019 Government Counsel Recruitment Exercise ended on 20 September 2019. The next exercise will be advertised around September 2020.

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Enquiries can be made to Executive Officer (Personnel)5 or Senior Clerical Officer (Personnel)2 of the Department of Justice at 2867 2162 or 2867 5014 or to our Personnel Registry via email:

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