Raveena Mital's picture

The Legal Procedure

The Legal Procedure

First of all, a Very Happy New Year to all. The last few months were very vigorous with first semester exams, projects and registration for the new term. However, as I started my new term in JD from January, I began to reflect on the sudden change of learning modes in my study of law and thought it would be something worth sharing with you.

Up till now, as my previous posts suggest, the learning style of the JD program was very abstract and theory-based. We were learning the essence of what the purpose behind laws are, the different kinds of legal systems in existence today, the special features of the common law doctrine and the separation of powers. Although they were each very straightforward to understand, the idea of fitting them together in one picture while making connections between the topics seemed difficult. This is because each theory had its own abstract discourse and thus it got confusing to make practical connections.

I had begun to think that perhaps this was the nature of the JD program; we were to digest all the underlying thought behind laws and find ways to put them together in a system. However, I was taken by surprise as soon as the second term started.

Unlike the first semester, my courses this time do not put heavy reliance on legal theories or writings. They have already been dealt with. On the contrary, these courses are very case intensive because they aim to teach the law and specific legal rules through a very pragmatic sense.

For example, in one of my courses, I am currently being taught the civil procedure carried out in Hong Kong courts under the Rules of the High Court Ordinance. This includes the steps litigants must start to initiate proceedings, whether in the common form of writs or originating summons. Writs are mostly used when the parties have a substantive dispute of fact while originating summons are used when the case is pretty much clearly in favor of the plaintiff; that is why cases by writs take a longer time to solve than by those started with their counterparts.

Although I will not go into the mechanics of Hong Kong’s civil procedure in this short blog, I do want to point out an important lesson I have learned from these practical studies so far. That is, often in law, it is the very minute details that have a large impact on how the case is carried in courts and what the end result turns out to be. Let us take the concept of “serving” the writs or summons as an example. In order to initiate a trial, a party must not apply to the court but must also “serve” (or inform) the opposing party of the same by giving him/her the writ or summon. This simple step of handing a document over can be very tricky though. Although Hong Kong law requires that the best practice to serve such legal notice is by personal delivery, often times the defending party may not be tracked so easily. Then at this case, the plaintiff (if the defendant is in the same jurisdiction), post the documents to his/her last known address. When the defendant gets the writ then he/she can notify whether he/she wants to start the defense as well. If there is no notice (and the mail has not been sent back to the plaintiff as “undelivered”), then it is deemed to be properly “served” on the defendant and his lack of care in notifying the court often results in an automatic judgment being made in favor of the plaintiff.

However, what if the plaintiff claims that the documents were actually not served to him properly; in the sense that he/she had actually moved to another residence (unknown the plaintiff), or had not been in Hong Kong during the time the legal notice was posted? How will the court react then? Although in theory the courts must then set aside the default judgment, allowing the defendant to defend, it can be questionable on how credible the defendant’s excuse is. The courts must then look at several pieces of other evidence, supporting the defendant’s claim that the writ or summon was not served properly on him/her.

In my view, this can put quite a burden on the courts’ resources as they unnecessarily have to spend time examining an administrative matter rather than focusing on the substance of the case. However, I also agree that justice cannot be compromised in the name of efficiency; hence it must be ascertained whether the defendant is actually telling the truth or not before doing away with the default judgment. If the courts readily believed any excuse then all defendants would not pay attention to any legal notice before it is too late and then pretend they never got it to begin the case afresh.

But better methods should still be sought that aim to lesson this tradeoff between justice and efficiency. For example, instead of having middlemen (such as the party’s personal solicitors or trainee legal officer) get involved in the process of serving the writ or summon, it would be better to have the courts directly request the defendant to present him/herself in court in which he/she could be informed of the proceeding. Although this suggestion may still involve its own loopholes, it might present itself as an alternative that leads to fewer future disputes on how well the documents were served. Nonetheless the research on better procedural techniques is something I aim to pursue in greater detail as this is an issue worth writing a dissertation on later in the JD program.

What are your views about such civil procedure rules? Are there any better alternatives you may have with regards to justice and efficiency? Feel free to share my views. Meanwhile, I will get back to studying the term two courses and keep you updated with more developments.

Cheers,

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

The Lawyer Statesman- A Long Gone Concept?

Hi there! Hope you all are doing well, especially those who are taking part in the HOLT challenge this year. I know you must be busy watching the videos and then completing the questions. As you work your way through the financial questions, you may find this insight into the legal profession as an interesting food for thought. This is an issue I encountered in my JD course and I have started to reflect on this as my exams are approaching fast.

 

During my courses I was taught the concept of a lawyer statesman. This term was coined in The Lost Lawyer by Anthony Kronman and describes the heroic lawyer of older times. Such a lawyer was a benevolent person that always sought to help his community and fellow workers; he was the one to stand for others’ rights; he was the righteous soul that was brought on this planet to help mankind. In short, this lawyer of older times, as Kronman puts it, was an individual that selflessly cared for the common good.

 

Then why the title The “Lost” Lawyer? Because according to Kronman, such heroes in our society do not exist anymore as today’s lawyers are all set on fulfilling their own goals. They use the laws, the law degree and the law firms’ prestige to get enough clients on their hand, bill them a huge amount, and then make lots of money. They drag controversial litigations in courts for years and years; partly to secure a steady fee and partly to earn “individual” publicity in the legal field.

 

Thus there is no lawyer statesman anymore that cares about the state; there is the lawyer one-man now, who cares all about himself.

 

How much do you agree with Kronman? Is this really true about today’s legal profession? Personally I agree with him that we have had living examples of the lawyer statesman in the past. Specific examples, as Walter Bernnet mentioned in his book, include Archibald Cox, Samuel Dash and Elliot Richardson. Yes, we do not have this comprehensive list of classic examples today; however we cannot attribute this to the reason that lawyers are becoming selfish. Rather, I believe its due to the complex accountability structure we have today in the legal field.

 

For example, in the past, lawyers did not really have a tall and complex subordinate organizational structure governing their duties of accountability, loyalty and confidentiality to multiple stakeholders. Non-state anti-crime organizations were rare (if even at all) and there was not much differentiation within a group of barristers and solicitors. Thus, all that lawyers had in mind when taking up cases or fighting them was the interest of their client and the reaction of the government. The code of conduct was more clear-cut, with few imposing behavioral rules.

 

But now things have become much more complicated. Loyalty to the client is just one of the many core virtues expected from a lawyer. The other fundamental principles include independence, competence, confidentiality, responsibility and honor. Lawyers are held accountable by many stakeholders such as courts, the clients and regulators of the legal profession simultaneously. Their actions are controlled, not only by the legislative ordinances, firm-wide instructions and client desires, but also by conduct rules made by the law society of each jurisdiction. Let us take Hong Kong as an example. Here, our solicitors are bound by not only the Solicitor’s Practice Rules in the ordinance but also by the Solicitor’s Professional Rules of Conduct while the barristers are bound a separate Code of Conduct designed by the Hong Kong Bar Association.

 

The imposeds numerous restrictions on what lawyers can do, disabling them from always being able to stand up for people’s rights (like the lawyer statesman) as much as they want to. Let us consider the case of Alton Logan as an example. Logan was convicted of murder in 1982 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in 2007 two attorneys revealed that the actual culprit was Andrew Wilson, while Logan was completely out of the situation. Wilson had already accepted his crime in front his lawyers in 1982 but the reason they could not speak about this in court stemmed from their duty of loyalty and confidentiality to their client. Even if they had breached this duty for the sake of justice in Logan’s trial they would a) be held violating the legal code of conduct and subject to penalties and b) not heard by court as “accurate evidence” to the trial. Hence, their efforts would have gone in vain anyways since their duty lay within their own client Wilson while Logan’s responsibility was that of his own defense lawyers. Such a structural complexity in the legal system is what led to the outcome of injustice, not the self-centered nature of the lawyers.

 

But I am not saying our legal system today is full of flaws. Indeed it has greatly evolved over the years and concepts such as the thick rule of law and doctrine of precedent have manifested themselves in common law jurisdictions like Hong Kong, enabling an independent and unbiased judiciary for all. This is surely not a bad change from previous times since these updated institutions is what guarantees judicial superiority in the lawmaking process and thus gives weight to fundamental rights. This structure of judicial system thus makes it difficult for a single lawyer to prosper as a lawyer statesman; rather the entire system is built to fulfill the duties of yesterday’s lawyer statesman by safeguarding the rights of the entire community. Hence, my own concern is that we should not confuse this nature of our new legal systems with that of an individual lawyer’s personality.

 

Therefore the lawyer statesman is not exactly “lost” but transformed into a “legal statesman”. What do you all think?

 

Cheers,

 

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

Judges: Impartial and Independent?


Greetings Friends!

I am back again as I shift from book to book, article to article and paper to paper on different law fields! Indeed the pressure on readings is becoming greater by the day in the JD but that is also because we are going into depth on what some of the core arguments in law are. Moreover, simply reading from textbooks is not enough. Case analysis, current events and fictional movies about the courtroom are also important learning elements in this area since they can really give a glimpse into the life of a lawyer.

One key notion that I was not aware of before is the importance of political science knowledge in the legal area. I had always envisioned politics to revolve around the government officials and ministers; law I thought was more of a private practice that simply took the pre-written rules and applied their relevancy in different cases. But lawyers have a much more active role than that; they are in many instances the ones to understand their jurisdiction’s constitution, political power and public needs, initiate legal proposals that meet them and argue for amendment on existing laws that violate basic human rights principles. Hence in this way, the judiciary is an important governmental arm that (given effective separation of powers) works with the legislative branch and executive branch in order to preserve the rule of law and control of power.

Out of all the legal experts, judges are the ones regarded as of the highest prestige as they play the role of the ultimate decision maker in courtrooms. As we discussed in our Ethics class, although it is highly respected that everyone practices their own religion and believes in certain Gods, the law cannot use “God” to reach solutions in cases. This is because religion is a very personal and subjective field; if it is used to resolve conflicts among different types of people, then equality would be hard to administer.

Therefore justice lies in the judges’ hands, and they are bound to make the “right” decision after hearing both sides of the story. Their judgments are final and conclusive; any objections to their statements, although may be appealed at higher courts, are still determined by another set of judges. This makes it understandable that people look up to judges as possessing God-like power to come up with a fair solution to human problems. But ultimately we cannot also forget that at the end of the day, judges are also human beings and thus are bound by their own emotions, feelings and personal lives.

Then how can one differentiate the behavior of judges to act in an immortal manner despite being mortal? This is largely through the careful training and code of ethics published for every jurisdiction’s judiciary. Although each code differs slightly in its requirements, they all require judges to maintain two core principles in their conduct: that is, being impartial and independent. In other words, judges have to remove all forms of prejudice, and emotions from the parties once the case is on trial and only rely on the presented evidence to make a judgment. They have to mentally cut off all kinds of family ties or pressures, which may hinder them from acting independently and making a decision only based on the facts. Yes, it is fair to argue that often times both the prosecution and defense fail to present the exact truth or embellish certain elements in favor of their clients; although judges may direct the jury to investigate further or use certain “tests” when the facts seem questionable, they cannot rely on what is “not there” to understand the situation.

Moreover, the type of the jurisdiction can also affect the judges’ role. In civil law, judges can still play a somewhat active role with the statutes. However, in common law, the judges’ role is much more passive; he/she simply sits back to hear the case, looks at the relevant case law and then makes a judgment that complies best with the equal treatment of all.

As I read all the different code of ethics for judges, including how they are able to restrict themselves from joining political parties or publishing strong views about a certain position, I got thinking: is it really possible for judges to cut themselves out from their personal views in the courtroom? As individuals we all have certain beliefs and values, and although we may not show them explicitly by not joining communities with similar thoughts, we cannot completely neutralize our mind from inside. Then how hard is it for judges to maintain their impartiality and independence in the courtroom and how do they maintain it? Also, would it make sense in certain situations for judges to simply give up their position in cases where independence seems hard to maintain? For example, if I were a judge having to make a judgment in a case where my loved one was convicted of a crime, would I be able to hear the prosecution’s side with full independence? Although I would try to remain neutral, I feel in this situation it would be fair if I give my seat to another. This is because it is not merely a matter of whether I can maintain independency, it also equally important for the public to have the belief in me that I can deliver justice. Public confidence would be low if they realized that I was hearing a loved one’s case.

What are your views on judges’ independence and what they should do in situations where their family ties are at stake? This is a crucial discussion factor in the legal field as it involves so many stakeholders.

Would love to hear your views!

 

Cheers,

 

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

Law School - It is not about learning a bunch of laws!

Greetings from Admiralty, Hong Kong; the campus of my JD studies at CUHK! After a long and anxious journey, my wait is finally over and I have officially commenced my studies at law school! Challenges awaited me the very first moment I stepped in since I had no idea of where to go for classes, how to access the library and how to complete all the formalities. I was not a freshly admitted undergraduate student anymore, who could make the excuse of being used to school in order to get immediate help. Postgraduate students are expected much more than that. But at the same time I knew that I was not alone and had all the first year JD students in the same boat as well. Thanks to the amazing faculty, we were all able to get timely support and settle well in the environment!

My fist term courses include Principles of Constitutional Law, Principles of Criminal Law, The Legal System, and Ethics & Professional Virtues. With that I am also required, like all other JD students, to write an independent dissertation of 10,000 words. Certainly the admissions committee was not wrong when it said that law is a very language extensive area! I have realized the load of reading hundreds of pages a day from numerous publications, instead of simply relying on a particular textbook like in undergrad.

However, I have certainly changed perceptions in one area of law school- that is, it is surely not a place where students are asked to learn a bunch of statutes and ordinances. In fact, I have not been told to memorize any specific laws at all and I am already two weeks into my studies! Apparently professors at Yale Law School had also published the same thing- that learning just laws is a big misconception of new law students. However, I had not believed this at the time. After all, where else would you learn laws if not at law school? But like most others, I had wrongly narrowed down the scope of this field into a bunch of thick law books.

On the contrary, there is much more to law and being good lawyers than simply reiterating the rules of society. This is because laws constantly change and hence simple word-to-word memorization of today’s statutes will not get people anywhere. Instead, law students are taught how to interpret the laws and argue about their validity and existence. It is this ability that helps people become good lawyers and be able to understand the rules from any jurisdiction after they graduate from law school.

One other key thing in learning the law is being able to define what law is in the first place. This is because being able to completely comprehend the law and the legal system can be a complex issue since many types of rules exist in our society. For example, there are laws in science (such as the quantum law of physics), laws in religious practices, moral laws, as well as our typical laws in civil and criminal cases. Then what factors distinguish the rules and regulations in our legal system from the rules in science and religion? Moreover, why do people normally regard these legal always as being more superior to other laws? These are very controversial questions, as many answers exist for each one.

In my view and according to the teachings of my law professors so far, the laws from different fields differ in their nature to begin with. For example, laws under physics or other sciences are rather descriptive- they describe what a certain theory is and what phenomenon should occur according to this rule. On the other hand, laws under religious practices are prescriptive- they prescribe people on how to live life in the purest form and follow God’s ideals. But laws in the legal system contain elements of both. While cases in common law jurisdictions describe what conflicts have happened before, the statutes themselves prescribe people how to live. This prescription is needed in order to ensure safety and keep order in the society. People can choose to adhere to the laws of science and religion, but they cannot choose to ignore legal laws of their society. Perhaps this is the reason that legal laws hold supremacy over laws passed by other disciplines. Nevertheless this remains a debatable topic that is open to views from both sides.

Enough said about how law is defined! The real challenge that lies ahead in front of me and other JD students is to understand, interpret and analyze laws well so that we can make the most out of law school! I hope to be learning the legal business procedure soon as well so that I can also incorporate my knowledge from accounting and finance. After all, this will be the road towards international arbitration!

Cheers,

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

Business + Law Can = International Arbitration

Namaste all! As I sit amidst the cultural diversity of India and sign up for my JD courses in CUHK, I cannot help but ponder on what this new journey will shape out to be. I mean, doing the JD program after a BBA Accounting & Finance degree is not that typical like I mentioned before, and people are always curious to know what it will bring. In other words, what will a Business and Law graduate contribute towards the society? This I believe strongly lies in the field of International Arbitration!

As the name itself suggests, international arbitration is used to resolve disputes/conflicts that arise due to international agreements. Globalization’s interdependency has incentivized many multinationals to integrate their operations both vertically and horizontally. Hence, they constantly strive to enter numerous deals with other and gain better profit margins. But of course, cooperation and conflict come hand-in-hand, and thus integration of operations in this highly competitive environment often results in disputes between different parties. Moreover, rapid technological advancement has shortened the life cycle of differentiated products, leading firms in this area to become paranoid on IPR issues.

                   

In short, all these reasons eventually create tension, disagreements, and battles between companies, making them drag each other to court and incur high litigation costs.

This is where the job of an international arbitrator comes into play. He/she helps the two parties reach an out-of-court settlement. In other words, these professionals hear the entire story and then reach a binding solution that both sides are willing to comply with. Let us take the famous battle between Apple and Samsung for example. These two companies have been filing lawsuits with each other till date. A recent headline talks about Samsung’s allegation against Apple infringing its 3G technology rights by not licensing out on fair rates. As an international arbitrator, I would have considered both the companies’ points, and not declared a complete ban on certain models at once. Rather, I would have listed several alternatives so that both the firms’ needs are addressed, keeping in mind that over tight regulation and inhibitions can limit perfect competition and growth in the long term. The macro-impact is very crucial here since disputes among multinationals have effects on various stakeholders at every level. This unique mindset on being able to apply the consequence of legislation in the business environment is surely what differentiates business-law students from other law graduates.

Thus, cost and time effective solutions can be found in international arbitration. Moreover, professionals in this field can help the parties overcome the complications of dealing within the courts of numerous jurisdictions for international purposes. Each jurisdiction has its own rule of law and hence many times it can be quite difficult and cumbersome for the court to explicitly choose one law the works worldwide. Thus arbitrators here aim to resolve disputes without having to both violate already-set rules and not act unfairly towards any end.

Such demand and nature of international arbitration has made me choose this line of law as I pursue the JD after my BBA Accounting & Finance. I already possess a vast depth of business knowledge from my undergraduate study. Now is the time where I couple this understanding with an understanding of the legal principles and find the overlap between the two divisions. This means I would need to choose my electives carefully and focus on courses that deal with “International Finance Law”, “Banking Law” and “Issues in International Law.” I am ready to take on such methods in order to find the overlap. This is because this intersection between law and business is the starting point towards both international arbitration and a dispute-free environment

I guess in my view, this is how business students can best couple their study in JD in order to contribute meaningfully to the society. But surely, everyone may have different views based on their different personalities.

Well I will close the matter here for now but stay tuned as classes in this new JD adventure start soon next month!

Cheers,

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

Decision Made - Next Stop, CUHK!

Hi again! A BIG thank you to all who read my first post and shared some thoughts on which university to choose for a JD programme. Your comments were much appreciated and really helped me get through the decision-making process more efficiently. So, after much thought and consideration on both personal and professional fronts, I have decided to pursue my JD studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong!

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (or CUHK) is a reputed university worldwide with high placements as delivered by the QS and Times Higher Education Rankings. For example, it is currently part of the "Top 10 Universities" within Asia overall, with its Law School ranking in the "Top 20." With its state-of-the art facilities and faculty, CUHK is surely not an opportunity to miss out on. In fact, it is the first university I've come across to separate its Graduate Law Center from its main campus in Shatin, Hong Kong. In other words, instead of mixing its Graduate law students with the rest of the student body in Shatin, the university has them appear for classes in a wholly separate office-style campus in the Bank of America Tower in Central Hong Kong; the heart of the business hub! I believe this is a very clever technique to intellectually enrich the minds of future lawyers while they study the subject!

                                           

Hence, with the outset of my decision, I have completed all the formalities, registered for the JD programme and even got a conditional offer  for graduating with a First Class Honours and a 4.0 GPA in Accounting & Finance. Now that this degree is well-over, I am all set for selecting courses and starting this new adventure in law very very soon! I have to select courses such as "Principles of Constitutional Law", "The Legal System", and alike- courses that are very different from the typical "Corporate Finance" and "Advanced Accounting" I took in undergrad. Moreover, the teaching system in classes is very different from what I've experienced so far. For example, instead of regular 1-2 hour lectures that take place 2 times a week, I have to attend 3-hour seminars for each course every week. Some of these seminars take place in the late evenings, something that I am not used to since I mostly attended morning and afternoon lectures during my undergraduate studies.

On top of this, I'll have to complete a big dissertation in law in order to graduate with a JD. This is very different as well since I have only been writing essays and papers for my courses till now, not writing a piece that equals to a whole course!

Keeping all this in mind, one thing I have come to understand is that my study style for the JD will have to be very different from the one I undertook for my Accounting & Finance. This is because, unlike Accounting, the field of law is not a bunch of formulas and equations that must be memorized in order to debit and credit properly. The field of law is not limited to certain principles or case studies. Instead, the field of law is like the ocean, vast and endless. Maybe this is the reason why people often relate law to big, heavy books; simply because there is no stop to it. Laws are developing and changing every day, in every jurisdiction and in every case worldwide. Hence, as lawyers, we can never claim to know “everything” and rather strive to know the most we can in order to reach solutions.

Overall, even though I have not formally started my JD studies yet, this journey is already bringing many changes to my life. Some are exciting, some challenging, but that's what makes it interesting! Stay tuned for more details in the next blog!

Cheers,

Raveena

Raveena Mital's picture

Embarking on a New Journey

It is very common to choose a particular field of study in high school, study that for a Bachelors and Masters degree at university, and then become a specialist in it at work. In economic terms, this is purely efficient and a good use of comparative advantage. However, often times this “over efficiency” leaves us incomplete as individuals, since we are only able to see our world from a particular point of view. Moreover, as time passes and our acquired knowledge and skills become outdated, we become unable to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Hence, in order to both enhance my existing skills and complete myself as a global person, I have decided to study the JD (Juris Doctor) program after my graduation from BBA Accounting & Finance this summer. This will be a whole new experience for me, since I will be making a huge transition from the accounting/finance field to the legal field in JD. Instead of seeing the world merely as a balance between assets, liabilities & equity, I will be seeing it as a blend of law and order from various jurisdictions. My future JD classmates will not necessarily come from the business field. I may meet people with backgrounds as diverse as  Math, Chemistry, Medicine, Zoology or Fine Arts! This is yet another positive thing about the JD since in our diverse, multicultural environment, having the ability to interact with people from completely different backgrounds is a must!

                     

But why the JD specifically? Because, in today’s globalized world, having technical skills is not enough. We must also be aware of why certain standards, policies and rules that set the mechanics for different fields exist. This can only be understood after we have learned how laws come about, why they come about, and why they vary among different countries. For example, for the past three years, I have spent numerous hours punching data into my calculator according to specific accounting standards adopted by the US GAAP, Hong Kong GAAP and IFRS. I have determined the price of certain financial instruments that are made available in certain countries. But why do these certain standards come about? Why is it that some companies have to disclose more information on their financial statements than others? Why are gains from the securities market taxed differently in different countries? Why are businesses subject to different rules and procedures? For this, I need to have a thorough understanding of the legal context, which can be acquired through the JD.

Therefore, I have decided to change my lens and start seeing the world afresh, from a legal standpoint. No successful company or country can operate without proper law and order, and this rule of law is becoming increasingly vital as we progress towards a more interdependent environment. With this in mind, I plan to begin my JD experience at one of the following universities: The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The City University of Hong Kong, The National University of Singapore and The Singapore Management University.  I have narrowed my choice down to Hong Kong and Singapore , because these two countries have a rule of law that favors cross border relations; an activity that encourages globalization.

I am both excited and curious, getting ready for my graduation results and a JD program at one of the universities mentioned earlier. This will mark the beginning of a new journey for me, as I overcome the challenges and enjoy the experience of sharing opinions with different kinds of people. Although this might not be the typical post-BBA road, my understanding is that everyone’s career path should ideally be different. This is because, despite learning the same mechanical things, we all have a different perspective on life and are in a pursuit of different types of knowledge/skills.

I hope that the combination of my BBA Accounting & Finance degree, the JD degree, and a unique background will shape my future career. I look forward to sharing my progress with you via this blog and thank Project Firefly for giving me the opportunity and platform to do so. I hope you will enjoy reading about my experiences and encourage you to share your comments and views. I would like to hear your take on having a unique career path, the JD program in particular, the importance of a legal understanding or anything else you might find interesting and relevant.

Cheers,

Raveena 

Raveena Mital's picture

At the End of the Day - Was it Worth it?

Let us go back to 22 May 2013, approximately 16:38 Hong Kong time; this is the time when I put my pen down and marked the end of my last exam for my BBA Accounting & Finance degree from The University of Hong Kong. This was surely a time to remember after three years of solid hard work that ranged from debiting and crediting financial statement items to planning numerous presentations for the business world. 

But as I think about it now, despite learning all the different investment options available in financial markets, one of the biggest investments in my life has been the time, money and effort I devoted to my undergraduate life. My “return” here is in the form of an Accounting & Finance degree that makes me qualified to work in the big four audit firms and major banks. So, a critical question at this point is: at the end of the day, was it really worth it?

                                   

It sure was! An Accounting degree is like a basic plate of bread and butter. Everyone needs it, regardless of what economic state a country is in. In other words, it is a profession that guarantees a stable career, despite the circumstances. This is because everyone is making money- whether it be high level corporate executives and multinationals, or small-scale family restaurants. Hence, they all need professionals that can summarize their financial data,determine their tax expenses, and in most cases, issue financial statements.

It is fair to say that an accountant’s job is not as volatile as that of a software engineer, because rapid technological advancement does not pose a drastic threat of structural unemployment. But of course, this does not necessarily mean that an accountant’s skills stay static over time. In fact, the role of accounting has greatly broadened over the years and professionals in this field today are no longer expected to simply sit down and do double-entry book keeping with a pen and paper. Information technology has automated these tedious procedures. Rather, management accountants are expected to understand, interpret and communicate the financial figures to top executives. They need to be familiar with the standards, policies and disclosures; they need to be familiar with the preparation format of the statements and guide the IT software accordingly. At the end of it all, it is their job to see the big picture from all the scattered numbers and then make appropriate judgments that act in the best interests of all the stakeholders. Hence, while accountancy may only deal with numbers, an accountant deals with many other things as well.

Nevertheless, it is a job that everyone requires as a necessity rather than luxury so job security is something an Accountancy degree guarantees. Then, what about its combination with Finance? This is like adding a dollop of whipped cream to a chocolate sundae in order to perfect it even more. Why is that? Well, according to the NACE 2012 Salary Survey, while the Business degree disciplines recorded the biggest hike in salary over the year, the finance major graduates witnessed a greater increase of 2.1% than the 1.8% increase allotted to the accounting graduates. This is not uncommon, because globalization gave way to an increase in cross border financial transactions and a rise in foreign investments. This means that financial markets worldwide are soaring as investors spread their capital across the world and require finance graduates to aid in the process. But of course, as the basic risk to reward concept states, the high “rewards” in the finance field also exposes graduates to a high amount of risk, since the career prospect in this line is very volatile to market changes.

Thus, the Finance-Accounting combo is perfect! Accountancy has the stability, while Finance has the higher rewards. All in all, these two complement each other well and combine into a valuable degree! 

We all perceive the value of our degree differently and there are a lot of available options to choose from post graduation. As for me, the end of my BBA Accounting & Finance degree marks the beginning of a JD (Juris Doctor) Program, which will, hopefully, give me a fresh perspective on life. 

You can read about these experiences in my upcoming blog! 

Cheers,

Raveena