ONC Lawyers and Twenty Essex
“A client may complain that his adversary’s complaint is ‘making a mountain out of a molehill’, but his lawyer will literally make a mountain out of papers to prove his client’s point” – Joshua Chu
The legal profession is renowned for wasting paper, especially in litigation. Over time, such practices can be extremely damaging, not just to our environment but also the client’s budgeting. In complex fraud cases which involve a multitude of defendants, the bill for service of hard copies of documents (usually by courier) can run from anywhere between tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Equally, service of legal process, orders and papers can be time-consuming and expensive.
ONC Lawyers are committed to bringing about a digital revolution. We do not just pay lip service to ‘green’ slogans but take proactive steps within the Judicial systems to digitise our traditional practices.
ONC Lawyers is therefore pleased to announce that our team of litigators together with Counsel team have successfully introduced ‘service by way of granting access to data rooms’ as a valid mode of service in Hong Kong based fraud litigation.
A new procedure digital service of legal documents is approved by the London Commercial Court
This innovation is modelled on and follows directly on from the ground-breaking English cyberfraud case of CMOC v Persons Unknown  EWHC 2230 (Comm) in which a legal team led by Paul Lowenstein QC of Twenty Essex in London and Philip Young of Cooke, Young & Keidan LLP obtained orders from the Commercial Court in London which allowed international service of legal proceedings, court orders and large volumes of supporting papers on defendants and international banks by provision of links to a secure online data room as an alternative to more traditional means such as paper service or even email.
How was it brought to Hong Kong?
ONC has close links with the London team and learned of these developments when Mr Lowenstein QC presented a lecture to their own litigation team whilst visiting Hong Kong.
Amongst the audience at the time was Joshua Chu whom had only then recently joined the firm. Being a lawyer with a tech-focused background, this new innovative mode of service captured his imagination and it was not long before he found a way to apply it in one of his cases.
The Hong Kong case
The Hong Kong case, conducted by ONC, is Hwang Joon Sang and others v Golden Electronics and others  HKCFI 1084. At the suggestion of the ONC team and their Counsel, H.H. J. R. Coleman agreed to introduce this novel mode of service into Hong Kong.
In his reasons for decision, Mr. Justice Coleman remarked that:
“In some ways, the provision of the link to the data room might be regarded as akin to an envelope or package containing documents, and the access code or password to use the link akin to the method by which to open the envelope or package. Clearly, the link and the access code together will provide ready access to the documentation in a form which many, if not most, would find more convenient than hardcopy. It would do so in a way which is quick, efficient, and cost-effective…”
How will it work?
As a result of this breakthrough ruling, litigants now will have a further option of applying to the Courts to dispense with service of mountains of hard copies of legal documents. Instead:
1. ONC will write a letter to other relevant parties to:
2. Such letters can then be delivered via the following modes:
As with the other mode of so-called service by alternative means, the permission of the Court will of be needed in every case. Accordingly, it will be necessary at make an appropriate application to Court for permission, citing relevant authorities (in particular, the cases of Hwang Joon Sang and others v Golden Electronics and others and CMOC v Persons Unknown).
Update: The new procedural jurisdiction has already been extended. In a further decision handed down on 18 June 2020 in the same litigation in Hong Kong, Mr. Justice Coleman has permitted service on Third Party ‘Norwich Pharmacal’ respondents to the Claimant’s application against them for disclosure of information, by granting access to an online data room: Hwang Joon Sang and others v Golden Electronics and others  HKCFI 1233.
With our lives having been increasingly transferred online, a great proportion of the subject matter of legal disputes arises out of ‘virtual’ dealings. Sometimes, for example in cyberfraud cases, the only means of tracing wrongdoers in through the Internet.
The development in this new Court decision – which allows alternative service by provision of a link to online data room – is therefore an appropriate response which will remove the traditional difficulties and expense for many litigants in having to find ways to serve documents in person.
The ONC team in the recent Hong Kong litigation was supervised by Mr. Dominic Wai (Partner), handled by Mr. Joshua Chu (Consultant) and supported by Ms. Ivy Wang (Associate), Ms. Francesca Lee (Trainee Solicitor) and Ms. Steffi Chan (Trainee Solicitor).