Applicants for QC status should not have to approach a judge for a favourable reference, the Law Society has said, suggesting that providing a list of substantial cases they had acted in would help remove the ’apparent bias’ against solicitor advocates. It was responding to a consultation by QC Appointments (QCA) on improving the appointments process to the historic rank.
QCA has published two consultation papers on the appointments process - one regarding listing of cases and assessors and another on character and conduct. Responding to the listing consultation, the Law Society says the proposal to ask applicants to list all their substantial cases over a three year period, is a fairer bench mark than the current requirement to list only their 12 most important cases.
The Society said: ’There is the perception that it is more difficult for a solicitor advocate, in comparison to a barrister, to approach a member of the judiciary and ask whether they will provide a favourable reference under the current QC scheme. If every substantial case is potentially one that would be subject to an assessment, there is less need and pressure to approach the judiciary and ask for a reference, which some solicitor advocates may find more challenging than a member of the bar’. It added that the vast majority of judges are former barristers.
Meanwhile, the Bar Council said asking QC hopefuls about their personal background could help elicit information regarding alleged bullying, racist or sexist behaviour.
Responding to the paper on character and conduct, the Bar Council said the question currently asked of applicants: ‘Is there anything else in your personal or professional background which could affect your suitability for appointment or bring the legal profession or QC into disrepute?’ could help call out potentially offensive behaviour.
However, it said more detailed guidance is needed from QC Appointments in order to explain the purpose of the question.
The council said the appointments scheme should require applicants to demonstrate all the behaviours expected of a QC to a standard of excellence and that the ’absence of regulatory sanction’ should not be seen as as determinative. Responding to a question on whether any conduct would merit removal of the QC title, the council said this should be done only in the event of disbarment. ’In light of extremely limited number of cases in which it might be appropriate to remove QC designation once it has been granted, the Bar Council does not see any justification for exploring with the Crown Office whether QC designation could be revoked more readily,’ it said.