Applying for QC status as a solicitor: Dipen Sabharwal QC
Like many solicitors, applying for Queen’s Counsel (QC) was never part of Dipen Sabharwal QC’s career plan. It was only after he met other solicitor advocates who had taken silk that he realised it was not only possible, but achievable.
Dipen is a partner at international law firm White & Case. Born and raised in India, he originally came to the UK to do a postgraduate degree at the University of Oxford. He then decided to become a solicitor, as he was attracted to the prospect of becoming an international lawyer and doing cross-border work.
He said: “Taking silk was something that I had never really planned for, as I primarily practise in international arbitration. It was through my arbitration work that I saw solicitor advocates from other law firms successfully applying for and taking silk. That was the first time that the idea was planted in my mind and gave me the inspiration to apply.”
Allow plenty of time to apply
Typically, QC applicants are barristers rather than solicitors, which can create challenges for solicitor advocates during the application process.
Dipen said: “It is very easy for a solicitor advocate who's applying to be daunted by the QC application form. It’s 65 pages long – probably the longest form I’ve ever seen – and asks for lots and lots of information. It is a competitive and highly selective process.”
With such a rigorous application process, Dipen admits that he should perhaps have taken more time to complete his application. “I'm not the perfect role model in this regard. I first started preparing to apply for silk in the January of that year – for a March deadline. It was a short, intense seven-to-eight-week period during which I put my application together.
“It was only when I contacted other silks for guidance that I found out that candidates usually plan the application many, many months – perhaps a couple of years – in advance. I would certainly recommend allowing more time to anyone else planning to apply.”
Do not be put off
Dipen also knows from experience that solicitors may think there is no way they can meet the criteria, but this shouldn’t put applicants off. “The one thing I can assure prospective candidates is that the QC selection panel is acutely aware of the fact solicitor advocates have a different type of experience to barristers who may be in court every week, and they certainly take that into account.”
While the process was stressful, Dipen’s application was successful. Since taking silk, he has noticed the benefits. “Queen’s Counsel is really a badge of excellence, and it's recognised not just by peers in the legal community, but also by clients.
“This is a global phenomenon. The strength of the English common law and the historic quality associated with Queen’s Counsel status cuts across geographic boundaries. It instils confidence in clients, not just here in England, but around the world.”
On a more personal level, Dipen has been pleasantly surprised to find out that he is an inspiration to other solicitor advocates.
“In the three years that I have been a silk, I have been contacted by numerous solicitor advocates who conventionally would not have considered applying. They’ve told me they’re considering applying and have been inspired by my appointment.”