A Hong Kong court has rejected a senior British barrister as an appeals counsel in the divorce of a wealthy couple.

Lucy Stone QC had applied to be admitted to represent the wife in the case. Under Hong Kong law, overseas counsel can only be appointed when the case is of “unusual complexity or difficulty” and is likely to have a broader impact on local jurisprudence.
The wife is challenging the trial court’s 50-50 division of marital assets, including its directions on the division of a large collection of Chinese antiques. Also at issue is how to factor into the marital estate $8.5 million the husband spent on a mistress and out-of-wedlock children.
The wife’s lawyers argued that the treatment of the antiques and the husband’s expenditures present potentially novel issues under Hong Kong law, requiring the expertise of an overseas counsel. Stone, of London’s QEB, is a well-known matrimonial lawyer in the U.K., where she has represented singer Cheryl Cole, among other celebrities, in divorce cases.
But Hong Kong High Court Chief Judge Andrew Cheung ruled that the legal principles were well-settled and that the issue of how to treat both the division of the antiques and husband’s expenditures was mainly fact-specific.
“No question of unusual difficulty or complexity is involved,” the judge wrote. “The great expertise of the applicant is not in doubt. However, the appeal does not, in my view, involve the determination of any legal principles which may substantially impact on the development of local jurisprudence for which her participation would bring a significant dimension.”
The judge also rejected the wife’s argument that she had exhausted her choices among top local matrimonial lawyers. She claimed there were six senior counsels whom she had previously engaged that she was now unwilling to hire, due to unsatisfactory results.
Cheung said he could not take this claim seriously without more detail. Moreover, given his view that the case was not unusually complex, he said the wife need not consider only the most senior matrimonial specialists.
Mr Adrian Leung, instructed by K. C. Ho & Fong, appeared on Stone’s behalf. Horace Wong SC and Christopher Chain, instructed by Keith Lam Lau & Chan, appeared for the Hong Kong Bar Association.
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