In the UK, Queen’s Counsel 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 achieve this status, a barrister must have practiced law for 10 years and be recommended by the Lord Chancellor.
Being appointed as Queen’s Counsel is sometimes referred to as ‘taking silk’ due to members wearing a particular silk gown, and is perceived as an excellent honour to achieve in a lawyer’s career. Once given the right to wear silk gown, a Queen’s Counsel then also has precedence over other Barristers in the Court.
The honour of being Queen’s Counsel is not limited to the UK, however, but also extends to other British commonwealth countries. Although currently referred to as Queen’s Counsel, the title will be referred to as King’s Counsel when a King reigns.
The Start of Queen’s Counsel
The existence of a position as high as Queen’s Counsel can be dated 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. Now, Queen’s Counsel is still seen as an award of excellence for lawyers, and those appointed are done so based on both competence and merit.
Becoming Part of the Queen’s Counsel
Applications can be made to become part of the Queen’s Counsel, opening it up to solicitors and barristers; visit the Queen’s Counsel Appointments website for more details. Many of the barristers at St Pauls have been appointed to Queen’s Counsel, including the following:
- Simon Bickler QC
- Nigel Sangster QC
- Bryan Cox QC
- Richard Barraclough QC
- Simon Myerson QC
- Jane Bewsey QC
- Sam Green QC
- John Harrison QC
- Jonathan Sandiford QC
- Cameron Brown QC
Earlier this year, the appointment of 119 barristers and solicitors to the rank of Queen’s Counsel took place. Approved by Her Majesty the Queen, you can read the Secretary of State for Justice’s speech at the appointment ceremony.
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 recognise 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, and as the Secretary of State for Justice mentioned in his speech, 64% of female applicants for this year’s appointments have been recommended for practising QC.