Less tinkering, more action

The list of silks is with us again. Once more, it is the same old story – few women and even fewer lawyers from an ethnic background.

It is good to see that two solicitors have made the grade. But five women to 63 men is not so good. And there is only one new silk from an ethnic minority background. There can be little surprise that the public's image of a QC is of a white upper class male – this latest roll call does little or nothing to alter that stereotype.

The Lord Chancellor's Department has made some great strides in this area in recent years. And it can always manage to justify why it is that so many men apply for silk and are successful. There is no way of disproving any of these reasons because the process is so secretive, the criteria so hazy and the system so fundamentally flawed.

The 1992 TMS Without Prejudice report was one piece of research which indicated that the existing system of appointing silks put women at a significant disadvantage. The Kalisher report in 1994 ignored these findings and although the LCD has made an effort to explain the system (as far as it is explainable) to women barristers at a series of meetings, there are no obvious results of this campaign. It could even be argued that having had the 'mystique' of the applications system explained, potential applicants are actually discouraged from putting themselves forward.

The conclusion must be that the LCD is determined to carry on with a promotions system that is perceived to be so stacked against most barristers that they do not even apply, that alienates all but white men at the Bar and that is, quite simply, out of date.

The whole system calls for a complete rethink with independent reviewers looking into the system. It has been proved that tinkering at the edges makes little difference.