Leaked document says all new QCs must be PC

Barristers will have to pass a political correctness test if they wish to become QCs under the new silk selection system, according to a document seen by The Lawyer.

Aspiring silks must be able to demonstrate “an understanding of diversity and cultural issues”, show that they are “aware of their own limitations” and be able to “motivate, listen to and work with other members of the team”.

The document has been produced by the Department for Constitutional Affairs, the Law Society and the Bar Council and divides the competency framework into four main headings – ‘Integrity’, ‘Identifying Arguments’, ‘Presenting Arguments’ and ‘Working with Client and Team’ – which must be “demonstrated to a standard of excellence”.

Although the emphasis on diversity will raise eyebrows at the bar, many barristers contacted by The Lawyer also expressed fears that the emphasis on advocacy will be impossible for most candidates to satisfy, let alone solicitors.

One existing silk said: “I wouldn’t stand a chance of meeting these new criteria.”

Candidates must be “honest and straightforward in their professional dealings with all parties”, which includes being candid with clients. They must have “expert knowledge and use it relevantly” and be able to “gain a rapid, incisive overview of complex material and identify the course of action that will produce the best outcome for the client”; they must “communicate a case in a persuasive manner to achieve the best outcome for the client” and “rapidly assimilate the implications of new evidence and respond appropriately”, establishing a productive working relationship with the client.

It is understood that the panel will interview candidates to assess their ability to satisfy client care and diversity obligations.

One key issue facing the selection panel is how to deal with a two-year backlog of potential candidates, which could mean as many as 1,000 barristers applying for the QC mark in the next round.