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.

Application process

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.

You must complete an application form, providing detailed evidence that you’ve demonstrated excellence in advocacy in five competencies:

  • understanding and using the law
  • written and oral advocacy
  • working with others
  • diversity
  • integrity

Applying to become a QC can take between three and five years, so it’s important to prepare far ahead. Read the guidance carefully before starting your application.

First, check whether you have strong enough evidence to use. The guidance suggests ideally listing 12 cases in your application.

It can take several years to gather enough comprehensive evidence, so start as early as possible.

Assessors

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
  • experts

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

Interview

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 you’ll also be assessed on the quality of your oral advocacy.

The application process and preparing for an interview can be challenging and time consuming. There are several external providers that provide support, advice and coaching.

All unsuccessful applicants receive feedback on their application/interview. You can reapply if you’re unsuccessful, but you’ll have to complete your application again.

2020 competition

The 2020 competition closed on 1 April 2020. Interviews are scheduled for September, and successful applicants will be notified in December.

The cost for the 2020 competition was £2,160 including VAT. Successful applicants will pay a further £3,000 + VAT.

We'll keep members updated on details of the 2021 competition.

What we’re doing

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

We’re keen to see more solicitors becoming QCs. We’re developing resources with the QCA to support our members applying, while recognising the barriers they face in doing so.

There will be further updates soon.

Guidance

QC Appointments website

Read interviews with two solicitor advocates on becoming a QC:

Adam Johnson QC

Penny Madden QC

Law Gazette article: How to become a QC