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Exclusive: Barrister who vowed never to become Queen's Counsel takes silk
02 March 2012
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A barrister who had previously supported the abolition of the QC system and said he would never apply for silk has, errr, been appointed Queen's Counsel. He is joining a small crop of 88 top barristers donning new silky gowns.

As revealed on RollOnFriday earlier this week, David Wolfe QC, of Matrix Chambers co-signed an idealistic open letter to the Lord Chancellor in 2003 (when he was a junior) calling for an end to the QC system, and stating that he would never apply. The letter poured scorn on the system, stating that it "[could not] be justified as being in the public interest or promoting competition". Doesn't time fly?

RollOnFriday contacted the freshly-minted QC, who said "I applied this time when it was clear that lack of ‘QC’ meant I was losing work and could not service my clients fully. But I will not be putting my fees up as a result of it, and I continue vigorously to push for effective quality assurance systems for all advocates, which the QC system is not. Lack of mandatory periodic re-accreditation, and the lack of any real linkage to area of practice remain just two of the fundamental problems. So no ‘youthful indiscretion’ here - sorry to disappoint".

  David Wolfe QC. Coming to a courtroom near you soon.
The results of the 2011/12 competition show a marked decline in the number of applications. Only 214 barristers put their names forward, and the 88 acceptances make for a lowly 41% success rate. Last year, 251 put their names forward and 120 - 48% - made the grade. In 2009/10, the figure was 275, with 129 successes (47%). And that's nothing compared to the 443 who put themselves forward in 2005/06 (admittedly following a three year embargo on promotions). Could  the decline in applications be something to do with the £2,340 fee for the pleasure of filling in the 63 page form? Or does it just reflect the continuing squeeze on the Bar - most notable at the junior end?

Despite regular claims that the Bar is a boys club, it seems the chances of taking silk are much improved if you're a woman. From the admittedly small pool of 40 female applicants, 23 were successful, which is a healthy 58%. But rather depressingly, only 15 applicants declared a non-white ethnic background, a mere 7% of the total. So much for diversity at the Bar.


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