Opportunities and knocks

Last Tuesday (18 July) was the most anticipated day at the bar for three years, but after the champagne was drunk the hangovers kicked in and the grumblings began.

The news of who had made it through the year-long QC beauty parade sped around the Inns and the principal reaction was positive, with most solicitors, barristers and clerks seeing the list as a strong one. (For the full list, turn over to page 4.)

But there are mutterings about the quality of the feedback sent to the unsuccessful candidates. Complaints that it is too generic ignore the fact that the selection panel shunned 260 barristers and eight solicitors.

What is frankly bizarre is that barristers sitting as recorders or deputy High Court judges were told that they demonstrated insufficient knowledge of the law. Practitioners priding themselves on their teamwork were told that they were not strong enough team players. Others discovered they didn’t understand diversity and cultural issues.

Some of the complaints will be sour grapes from arrogant barristers who had been too confident of their success. Some, though, will be justified. And among the many things the selection panel needs to address before kicking off the 2007 competition is whether the criteria can be applied equally across all practice areas. For example, a human rights barrister is far more likely to meet the diversity criteria than someone practising company law.

There is another group of winners in all of this – the junior bar. Held back for the past three years because of the freeze in new silks, a whole group of up and coming juniors can now pick up the work that the older generation is leaving behind.

Spaces have also become available on the ‘A’ list of Treasury counsel. Sixteen of the current panel will be sworn in as silks in October, making room for a raft of new appointments.

New positions have opened up at the top of the Treasury’s list too, thanks to the appointment of several senior counsel as silk.

Now that the logjam has been cleared we can look forward to a few more surprises next year. And in the meantime we can see how the newbies cope with their celebrated status and how the juniors pick up the baton.