For some solicitors the QC application process is not an obstacle but a cattle grid.
The list of titles that matter is much shorter than a generation ago. Eliminating most hereditary peers from the House of Lords likely played a part in that. One title that retains its cachet is the designation Queen’s Counsel. Not least, it is a title known and respected by the public. The popular image of a lawyer is an advocate and it is thought that QCs are the best.
They can also charge higher fees.
The passage of time, members of the QC appointments committee have argued, will ensure a steady growth in the number of solicitor-advocate QCs.
The figures for recent years are: 2010, one solicitor out of 129 appointments; 2011, two of 120; 2012, none; 2013, one of 84; 2014, five of 100; 2015, five of 93; 2016, three of 107.
For City solicitors handling international arbitrations and major commercial disputes, this might represent steady progress – solicitor QC appointments are drawn almost exclusively from their ranks.
But in areas such as crime and family, the application process as currently designed is not an obstacle, but a cattle grid. As attendees at this week’s roundtable reflect, appointment criteria are heavily skewed towards the bar and the application fee is prohibitive. At this point solicitors are deterred from even applying. Unless the criteria and the fee are reformed, expect no change here.