It's that time of year again. The first rays of sunshine… shop windows laden with chocolate temptation… and the silks list is out.
As lists go, it was the equivalent of a six foot-high Easter egg, with nearly 50 per cent more QCs being created than in last year's list.
Over the last couple of years there have been frequent expressions of discontent with the whole system, which has been slammed as an old boys' network in which only white males from the right sort of background could succeed. Perhaps the extra number of QCs this year is down to a tactic from the Lord Chancellor's Department to eventually make everyone into silks. That way there is no one left to moan. Kind of like the way that everyone is now supposed to be middle class.
But the extra slew of silks has not pleased everyone. The Association of Women Barristers got on its high horse following the list's publication to bemoan the lack of new female silks as “abysmal”. And if you look at the figures, they would appear to be right, with a quota of only 12 out of the 113 total.
Outrageous? Well, not really. Not because of the usual argument that among the group of barristers of more than 10 years call there is a smaller percentage of women because the increased intake of female barristers has yet to filter through, although that is obviously a factor. It is because, out of a total of 429 applications, only 44 were from women. In fact, if you do the sums, women actually had a slightly better chance of gaining silk than men – with one silk going to every 3.6 applications from women compared with 3.8 applications from men.
Now, I am not saying that women are fairly represented within the silks club – I'm not that foolish – but I am saying that the Association of Women Barristers is misdirecting its energies.
Rather than moaning about the list once it comes out, why has it not managed to persuade more women to apply? Of course, its argument is that the low number of silks granted to women dissuades applications, but a quick glance through the applications-to-awards statistics since 1994 show that, with the exception of 1996 and 1997, every year women had a better chance than men.
So I am sorry, but the association needs to change its tune and remind women barristers that, to coin a phrase, “you need to be in it to win it”. fiona.callister@thelawyer.com