Advocacy

Becoming a QC

Queen’s Counsel (QC) are barristers or solicitor advocates who have been recognised for excellence in advocacy. They’re often seen as leaders in their area of law and generally take on more complex cases that require a higher level of legal expertise.

This page covers:

What is Queen’s Counsel?

To be awarded Queen’s Counsel (QC) status is a recognition of excellence and one of the highest honours a solicitor can attain.

The award is given to lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional ability in advocacy cases of substance, complexity, or significant difficulty or sensitivity in the higher courts of England and Wales, tribunals, arbitrations or other forums.

In this one-minute video, our former CEO, Paul Tennant, explains why solicitors should apply for QC status.


The status has a long history, with the first QC being appointed in 1597 by Queen Elizabeth I. In the four centuries since, only the best legal advocates in England and Wales have attained QC status – also known as King’s Counsel during the reign of a king.

It’s a common misconception that QC status is only open to barristers, however, solicitors with higher rights of audience have been eligible to become QCs since 1995. Since then, approximately 180 solicitors have applied, of which 58 (as of 2020) have taken silk.

In 2021, five solicitors were among the 101 lawyers appointed as QCs.

As a member of the Queen’s Counsel Appointments (QCA), we want to improve diversity among applicants and appointments.

We believe there are even more outstanding advocates who could be appointed, and we’re committed to encouraging more solicitors across England and Wales to apply – especially those from under-represented groups.

Why should I apply?

QC status demonstrates to colleagues, courts and clients that you are:

  • an elite advocate
  • equipped to deal with the most complex cases, and
  • considered a leader in your field

It’s also recognised around the world as a badge of excellence, especially in Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand where the title is still used for their own top legal advocates.

QCs also typically get more opportunities to work on complex cases than non-QC solicitors.

Amanda Brown QC discusses why she applied for Queen’s Counsel.

Support to apply

As a solicitor, you may well already have many of the essential skills you need to be successful in an application to take silk, and if you can also demonstrate complex advocacy experience, you’re in a good position to be able to apply.

Paul explains how the Law Society can support solicitors applying for QC status.

Join a taster session

We’re holding virtual taster events to help you learn more about what it means to be a QC and decide whether it’s something you’d like to pursue in your career. You can attend anonymously if you prefer.

The first event took place in December 2021.

We'll add upcoming dates to this page.

2022 competition

The 2021 competition is now closed. To find out the latest on the upcoming competition, visit the Queen's Counsel Appointments (QCA) website.

Resources

QC Appointments website

Case studies with solicitor advocates:

Law Gazette article: How to become a QC

How to apply

QCs are selected by an independent panel of senior lawyers, a retired judge and non-lawyers once a year in what is known as the competition.

Amanda discusses the advantages a solicitor's experience can bring to the role, and what the QC selection panel is looking for in your application.


Applying to become a QC can take between three and five years, so it’s important to prepare far ahead.

The application process is detailed and requires applicants to display significant levels of complex advocacy experience. Crafting a successful application is achievable providing you can demonstrate relevant experience and give yourself plenty of time ahead of the deadline.

The process has four broad steps.

The most important thing to show is extensive experience of complex written and oral advocacy, which can take years to accrue.

Read the competency framework carefully before starting your application.

Before you apply, check that you have:

  • enough experience to meet the criteria
  • strong enough evidence to use

If you’re not quite ready to apply, we recommend making an action plan of how you plan to fill any experience gaps before applying in the future.

Application is a lengthy process, so leave plenty of time.

Take time to draft and redraft each of your answers to give yourself the best possible chance of progressing to the next stage.

We recommend showing your application to others for feedback, particularly if they are QCs themselves and have been through the process.

You’ll also need to identify several assessors who have seen you perform in court and can support your application. These could be:

  • judges
  • solicitor advocates
  • clients

Give yourself plenty of time to approach people and ask if they’d be willing to act as an assessor.

Read the guidance for assessors

If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to a 45-minute interview with two members of the selection panel. They’ll ask questions relating to your application and assessors' comments.

If you’re successful at interview, the panel will recommend you to the lord chancellor, who’ll confirm your appointment as a QC.

Should your application be unsuccessful, you’ll receive detailed feedback and can reapply in the future.

Mentors

Working with a mentor who has already been through the process can help with your QC application.

We encourage you to reach out to solicitor QCs in your network and ask them about the possibility of mentoring.

If you’re already a solicitor QC and would be interested in mentoring a prospective QC applicant, get in touch with our policy adviser, Baljit Matharu.