Congratulations if you were one of the five solicitors on the list of new Queen’s Counsel, published last week. It is a select group to join, and the letters ‘QC’ after any solicitor’s name lend each one the added kudos that attends the perception that the appointment system is loaded against solicitors.
Experienced solicitor-advocates at a Gazette roundtable discussion recalled the fairly juvenile jibes of judges who took regular pops at any non-barrister advocates appearing before them.
However, they also acknowledged improvements, as there should be, with solicitor-advocate numbers edging ever closer to the total size of the bar.
It is not the ambition of all solicitor-advocates to take silk – any more than it is the ambition of all members of the junior bar. But the QC club is surely a group that should be properly and effectively open to solicitors to join.
In fact the credibility of the QC system will increasingly rely on it. The bar, through no fault of its own, is an increasingly expensive route to a career as an advocate, with all of the challenges to a diverse intake that come with such financial obstacles.
The QC ‘marque’ is a powerful brand – but it is surely one whose power will be eroded if too much high-quality advocacy is conducted without reference, and deference, to its existence.