The Bar Council has criticised proposals to require future applicants for QC status to list all their significant cases, claiming it may put at a disadvantage women who have turned down work because of caring responsibilities.
The council’s view opposes that of the Law Society which said the proposal would reduce the need for solicitor advocate applicants to approach judges for a favourable reference.
The Bar Council was responding to one of two consultation papers published by QC Appointments (QCA) on how to improve the process for appointing new silks. The papers ask for feedback on proposals regarding listing of cases and assessors and on the character and conduct of applicants. The council has already responded to the consultation on character and conduct.
One proposal in the listing consultation suggests asking applicants to list all their substantial cases over a three-year period rather than listing only their 12 most important cases from the same period.
While the Law Society said making each case subject to an assessment would mean less pressure to approach the judiciary and ask for a reference, ’which some solicitor advocates may find more challenging than a member of the bar’, the Bar Council said it believed the current system worked well.
It said: ‘We believe that the idea of making candidates list all recent cases of substance (potentially up to a maximum number) rather than select cases from the previous three years is likely to disadvantage primary carers (and therefore more women than men) because senior women in some types of work may turn down the best cases because they require travelling away from home, limiting the number of cases of substance they can present.’
It said listing cases in a three-year period ‘as a maximum’ would allow people who take time off from practice to be able to give a representative section of their work. The suggestion of a maximum of 12 cases is ‘probably good sense’ to avoid the QCA getting too much information that does not assist in its decision making, the council said.
It added that the current system of grading applicants not good/good/excellent should be replaced with a scale of 1-10 as it is currently implied that a failure to score ‘excellent’ in every category is an indication that QC status should not be granted.