June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC
You are invited by the Ministry of Justice to nominate people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk).
The Ministry of Justice intends to recommend a number of people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘causa’ (honorary silk) in spring 2011. They are inviting both the legal sector and the wider public to make nominations by 30 July 2010.
Honorary silk is awarded to lawyers who have made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts which has not been recognised through other forms of honours. This can cover a wide range of activities so, while it is difficult to give a definitive list, the Ministry of Justice have made clear that they will consider accomplishments in any area.
The rank of Queen's Counsel is awarded to advocates (barristers and solicitors) who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the conduct of advocacy. It has been awarded in various forms for around 400 years. Since 2005, an independent Selection Panel has made recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, using a new system of assessment based on competencies and rigorous analysis of evidence.
The rank of Queen's Counsel honoris causa is separate. The first awards were made in the late nineteenth century and it has been the practice for governments to recommend a small number of lawyers for the honorary rank with each round of substantive appointments. Despite its name, honorary silk is not part of the honours system and is administered separately within the Ministry of Justice.
Both versions of the QC rank were suspended in 2003 while the Department for Constitutional Affairs (as it then was) conducted a consultation exercise about the future of Queen's Counsel. The QC Selection Panel was the result of that consultation. The first new awards of QC and QC honoris causa were made in October 2006.
Traditionally, honorary silk has been awarded to distinguished legal academics and to some lawyers in public service for achievements beyond their normal responsibilities. More recently, awards have been made for other achievements. Nonetheless, in making a nomination we are asked to bear the following in mind:
- The award is open only to qualified lawyers and to legal academics. However, although the substantive QC rank can be awarded only to lawyers with rights of audience in the higher courts, the honorary rank is not so limited. It is available to any practising lawyer, whether in private practice, working as an employed lawyer, or in public service. 'Public service' includes any public-sector organisation - national government, local government, or other public bodies such as the CPS or the NHS – and also lawyers working in bodies such as charities or not-for-profit agencies.
- Honorary QC is not a 'working rank'. It cannot be used in practice as a lawyer.
- 'Major contribution to the law of England and Wales' can be interpreted as widely as you like. It means not only contributions to the development of the law, but also to people's understanding of it, their ability to make use of it, and its promotion.
- 'Outside practice in the courts' will generally mean that the award is made for an achievement other than a person's normal practice as a lawyer or academic, which also brings with it a significant degree of public benefit. However, there is no definite boundary to this – for instance, the development of pro bono work is usually closely associated with practice.
- Honorary silk is awarded only in England and Wales. There is no parallel to it in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The Ministry of Justice welcome nominations for honorary silk from anyone. If you would like to suggest someone for appointment, please send the following information:
- the person's full name
- their contact details
- their legal qualifications
- your reasons for believing that the person you are nominating has made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts.
- what the person has done, where, and (if appropriate) for whom
- how, in your opinion, this amounts to a major contribution – beyond what might normally be expected for someone in this person's position.
You need to send in the nomination form by 30 July, 2010. The Ministry of Justice will only accept nominations which are included in the pro forma available on their webpage.