The company that recommends the appointment of QCs has admitted embarrassment about its £1.4m accumulated cash pile, saying ‘it would be desirable for reserves to be at a rather lower level’. Queen’s Counsel Appointments collected more than £750,000 from silk application and appointment fees last year.

Lawyers must pay £2,160 to apply for silk and an extra £3,000 + VAT if their application is successful. QC Appointments' financial statement for the year ended 31 March 2019 says the not-for-profit company took £755,100 in fees in 12 months, down from £850,077 in 2018. Of the 240 people who applied in the 2019 round, 108 were successful.

In the latest competition – the results of which were announced today – 258 lawyers applied for silk and 114 were successful. The Gazette estimates that this year’s applicants will have racked up fees of around £950,000 in total.

Queen’s Counsel Appointments, a company limited by guarantee, had total reserves of £1.35m at the end of March 2019, which it described as 'more than adequate'. 

Its 2019 financial statement said: ‘The directors consider that the company now has a more than adequate reserve for the continuity of its operations in periods of low demand. They consider that it would be in principle desirable for the reserves to be at a rather lower level, and have sought to set fees so as to produce a deficit. However, the number of applications has generally exceeded the anticipated number and so little progress has been made with reducing the level of reserves’.

A pilot scheme which introduced lower fees for lawyers earning less than £60,000 attracted only one applicant in the 2019 competition. The report added that ‘the directors are currently considering whether there are any initiatives…to which they could apply part of the reserves’.

According to the latest financial statement, the company's annual operating expenses are over £700,000, with £208,664 split between four employees. The 10 members of the QC selection committee are paid £760 per day for around 30 days.

Queen's Counsel Appointments said it has begun to issue annual grants of £75,000 to the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions to increase diversity among QCs and the judiciary.