A Queen’s Counsel (QC) is a very senior attorney at law who is recognized as an expert and leader in the legal field.
Across the United Kingdom, including British commonwealth countries, it refers to a set of barristers and solicitors who the monarch appoints to be a part of Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law. To attain this status, a barrister must have practiced law for at least ten years and be recommended by the Lord Chancellor.
Being appointed as Queen’s Counsel perceived as an excellent honor to achieve in the legal profession. Once conferred upon, a Queen’s Counsel then has precedence over other attorneys in the Court.
A QC will often take the lead on cases, particularly highly complex cases which demand greater experience and expertise.
Although currently referred to as Queen’s Counsel, the title will be referred to as King’s Counsel when a King reigns.
How do you become Queen’s Counsel?
To apply for Queen’s Counsel, one has to fill out a highly-detailed application form. Then, if successful at this stage, the applicant will be interviewed by members of the independent Selection Panel.
The QC application has to demonstrate competency in five areas to a standard of excellence in his/her professional life. The application must be supported with comprehensive evidence of this over many years.
The five competencies are understanding and using the law, written and oral advocacy, working with others, diversity, and integrity.
To support the application, the attorney will need to ask several people to act as assessors. An assessor is someone who can vouch for their work and they must have seen them perform in court. The assessors should be able to provide detailed evidence which satisfies the competencies. Assessors can include judges, fellow attorneys and professional clients.
If the QC application is approved, the attorney will be invited to interview with members of the independent Selection Panel.
The interviewers will ask questions based on the application and they will also assess the attorney on his/her oral advocacy.
The History of Queen’s Counsel
Queen’s Counsel can be traced back to 1597 when Sir Francis Bacon was granted precedence at the bar, before officially being titled King’s Counsel in 1604. However, it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the numbers really began to grow in the King’s Counsel, with the award growing in importance from then onwards.
It wasn’t until 1997 that the position in Queen’s Counsel was open to solicitors as well as barristers. However, it has now been updated to recognize legal talent as a whole, now including solicitor advocates too. Queen’s Counsel also welcomes minorities in any form, and also places an importance in inspiring women to apply.
Queen’s Counsel is seen as an award of excellence for lawyers, and those appointed are done so based on both competence and merit.
Being appointed as Queen’s Counsel is sometimes referred to as ‘taking silk’ because its members wear a particular silk gown.