An independent inquiry has found that the appointment of judges is biased and that silks are not selected on merit.
The independent Judicial Appointments Board, headed by Professor Sir Colin Camp-bell, has also revealed that when deciding who should get silk, the Lord Chancellor doesn't even account for court cases in which the silk applicant has been involved.
The names of those who apply for silk are sent to 450 senior lawyers and judges - 97 per cent of whom are men - to make comments on their suitability for silk. Their responses often amount to little more than "gossip", Sir Campbell told The Lawyer.
Barristers who get a 'B' grade (suitable for silk under LCD criteria) are still not guaranteed silk as they may not have the X factor - the nature of which remains a mystery to the commission.
The Lord Chancellor then makes a final decision from a short list. No one at the commission knows how he formulates his conclusions.
"We are concerned that decisions affecting profession advancement as an advocate should rest with a single individual," the commission's report states.