The new list of barristers who have been promoted to Queen's Counsel was published this week, and it shows that some 58% of women who applied will receive silk.
The figure is slightly lower for men. Although 65 men have been promoted to Queen's Counsel, 174 applied, meaning that only 37% of men were successful.
The latest list was compiled from some 214 applications which were made by senior barristers. The excellent success rate for women is actually down from last year's application process, which saw 66% of women awarded silk.
The rank of Queen's Counsel, or QC, is awarded to lawyers who demonstrate excellence in advocacy and has traditionally permitted the holder of the rank to charge a higher fee for their services.
There were 15 applications from non-white lawyers, still a low number but reflecting an upwards trend. Of those 15 applicants, six were successful. The number also included two applications from solicitor-advocates, but neither of these was successful.
Previous to 2003, the application process for QC was determined by the Lord Chancellor after taking advice from his officials.
The Lord Chancellor at that time was Lord Irvine of Lairg, who served under the Blair Government until June 2003. He proposed to close down the system of awarding Queen's Counsel, but the Bar wished to keep it, and so today silk is awarded by a panel which is funded by the application fees. The panel is currently chaired by Professor Dame Joan Higgins.
Speaking of this year's QC appointments, Dame Higgins said: "The applicants who were unsuccessful will naturally be disappointed. But the standard for appointment is extremely high and requires excellence across all the competencies."
She added: "If an advocate has not been successful on this occasion that does not mean that he or she is not a highly valued and effective practitioner."
The new list is ordered with the most senior and experienced lawyers, that is the ones with the most qualifications, nearest the top. This allows the observer to view the real upcoming talent, which sits at the bottom. These are lawyers who have achieved silk with the minimum level of experience possible. This year the youngest barrister on the list is 37, and the oldest is 62.
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