Aslam notes that the high-profile cases of recent years have sparked a growing interest in human rights and a sense of social responsibility in Hong Kong, especially amongst the student population.
The problem is a lack of viable career options. Daly declines to discuss the remunerative aspects of his practice but he says many clients have no ability to pay. For larger cases on behalf of indigent clients, the firm can apply to Hong Kong's Legal Aid Department, which will provide funding if the client is financially eligible and the case is determined to have merit. "Legal Aid does support most of our cases, but sometimes our battle is with Legal Aid," Vidler says, noting that sometimes he must seek judicial review of a denial of funding.
The number of full-time human rights lawyers in the market has remained small.
"There are not really any money-making opportunities in human rights," says Law. "The focus area is very specialized, the laws are very technical and there is a lack of opportunities to gain experience in the field." Former Hong Kong Law Society president Huen Wong thinks Hong Kong certainly needs more lawyers like Barnes & Daly but agrees "that sort of work isn't exactly lucrative."
Daly thinks he probably thinks less about financial matters than most lawyers. "I grew up thinking that if you can do something in terms of social justice, that adds a lot of meaning to your life, and you can die happy because you've done something good."