William Blair QC, the Prime Minister’s brother, is at the heart of the inquiry geared at making the silk appointment system more transparent.
The silk system was granted a reprieve in June, when responsibility for selection passed from the Lord Chancellor to the Bar Council and Law Society.
These bodies have set up a joint working group, which has appointed consultancy Human Assets to devise the new QC selection scheme.
The group faces a tight deadline if the process is going to be ready for the appointment of a new batch of QCs in April 2005, as originally planned. Historically, barristers have had to apply for silk by October, with the successful candidates appointed in April the following year.
An announcement on the selection process is expected at a Bar Council meeting on 18 September, although full details may not be published until later in the year.
The scheme is expected to be merit-based and incorporate modern selection methods. Under the old scheme, the Lord Chancellor made the final selection after reviewing ‘secret soundings’ of the legal profession by his civil servants.
Blair, who is chairman of the Commercial Bar Association, and Robin Knowles QC, a tenant at 3-4 South Square, are the bar’s representatives on the working group.
When the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer announced the reprieve, he made clear that the QC title was not guaranteed forever and was subject to a wider review to be completed by 2006-07.