Silk door reopens to much tougher selection criteria

Following a hiatus of three years, the first batch of ‘transparent’ silks will be appointed under new rigorous selection criteria in 2006.

As first revealed on (11 July), hopefuls have from tomorrow (19 July) until Wednesday 14 September to apply for silk.

It will then be for the QC Selection Panel, chaired by Sir Duncan Nichol, to assess whether hopefuls meet the strict set of seven key competencies: integrity; understanding and using the law; analysing case material to develop arguments; persuading and communicating arguments; responding to unfolding cases; working with the client; and working in a team. They will do this by way of a formal interview process and through references from judges, practitioners and clients.

Launching the new system last week, Nichol stressed the importance of improving the diversity of the silk pool. He also explained that appointments would be made solely on the basis of merit and that, despite an anticipated deluge of applications, there would be no quota system.

Bar chairman Guy Mansfield QC said: “QC is all about public interest in having the highest possible standards of advocacy in our courts.”

Although the QC kitemark is assessed solely on advocacy skills, consideration will be taken of written and arbitration advocacy, giving commercial barristers who do not spend much time on their feet, as well as solicitors and in-house lawyers, a much better chance of success. Since solicitor-advocates became entitled to QC status back in 1996, only eight have been successful.

Successful applicants will in future have to pay £4,050 for the kitemark, although it will no longer be given for life.

David Watts, head of the QC appointments secretariat, said the revocation process is still being finalised, but added that it will apply only to those QCs appointed under the new system. Reasons for having silk revoked will include situations where an advocate has been found guilty of misconduct.