Three solicitors are among 107 Queen’s counsel appointments announced today by the independent selection panel.

This is down from last year, when five solicitors were recommended for silk. There were nine applications from solicitor-advocates, the same number as last year. 

All three are arbitration specialists at City or international firms, as was the case in 2014/15.

Penelope Madden (pictured), an international arbitrator at US-based Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Nigel Rawding, dispute resolution partner and head of international arbitration at City firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Stephen Jagusch, chair of international arbitration at litigation boutique Quinn Emanuel, were awarded silk this year.

The QC Appointments (QCA) panel said it remained concerned that the level of applications from solicitor-advocates remained in single figures.

It said: ‘For whatever reason, there appears to be a marked hesitancy on the part of solicitor-advocates to apply for silk, even where they may well be qualified to do so.’

Will Richmond-Coggan, vice-chair of the Solicitors’ Association of Higher Courts Advocates (SAHCA) and a partner at Pitmans LLP, said: ‘While SAHCA congratulates the three solicitors to take silk in the current round we share QCAs’ concern about the continuing low numbers of applications.

‘We will be continuing to work with QCA to remove the unequal barriers which exist for solicitor applicants, to create a level playing field and to encourage more of the highly capable solicitor-advocates among our membership to put themselves forward for consideration in future rounds.’

Last week SAHCA cited high application fees as one of the main factors deterring solicitors from applying to take silk. The body said that solicitor-advocates who self-fund a QC application end up paying £3,264 more in real terms than the independent bar, after taking into account income tax and VAT.

Overall, 237 applications for silk were made for the 2015-16 round, with a success rate of 45%. Of these, 48 women applied for silk, with 25 recommended. This was the same number as the year before.

Meanwhile, 32 people from ethnic minority backgrounds applied, 14% of all applications, out of which nine were successful. 

Helen Pitcher, chair of the selection panel said: ‘We remain concerned that the number of female applicants remains stubbornly low, but I am pleased that of those women who did apply, 52% were successful. While I was pleased to note a rise in BAME applicants to 14% of applications it is disappointing that the success rate for BAME applicants was lower than that for applicants as a whole.      

‘Each year, the panel has the difficult task of identifying the truly excellent advocates. I am confident that those appointed today truly deserve to be Queen’s counsel.'

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