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The number of QC applicants has dropped by a quarter compared to last year, according to figures published by the QC Appointments committee this afternoon (9 March).
A total of 333 barristers applied, compared to 443 in 2006. The fall in applications, however, had been expected by the Bar following last year’s massive 175 lawyers becoming silks.
QC appointment secretariat David Watts said the fall in application is not a reflection on the appointments system though he did say that uncertainties across the Bar as a whole could be a small factor.
“Last year’s figures are in themselves artificially high as it was the first round to become a silk for three years,” said Watts. “As a result this year’s figures were bound to be lower as there has only been a one year gap.”
However, concerns with the new system still exist. Clerks and barristers contacted by The Lawyer say they feel the process is too cumbersome; the application form has 122 pages.
There have also been criticisms that the process has been disorganised. The deadline for applications had to be extended from 15 January to 29 January as no forethought was given to the fact that is was the Christmas period.
The cost of applying for silk has also been cites as a major deterrent for applicants. Fees rose by 39 per cent from £1,800 in 2006 to £2,500 this year, although it is not clear whether in practice this discouraged barristers.
The QC appointment figures also show that the proportion of female applicants increased by a point to 16 per cent, although the actual numbers of female applicants fell from 68 last year to 51.
The scenario was the same for non-white applicants. They rose by two percent to seven per cent, despite a drop in the number of ethnic minority applicants from 22 in 2006 to this year's figure of 20.
The QC secretariat is currently seeking references and will contact all applicants around Easter about interviews which will take place in the summer. Successful candidates will be informed at the end of this year.