‘Become a QC’ – 15th June 2018 – A Review

SAL teamed up with the Association of Women Barristers (AWB) to host a brilliant discussion on the route to silk at the offices of the General Council of the Bar.

Prior to the event, SAL was confident that the detail of content and presentation styles of two recently appointed silks and a Chief Executive was always going to be impressive but listening first-hand to such outstanding and highly-competent individuals, who willingly gave their time on a Friday evening to share their priceless advice and experiences of the application process, was simply mind-blowing.

The application is 64 pages in length and quite a demanding process. It costs £2000. Russell Wallman, Chief Executive of the Queen’s Counsel Appointments Commission explained that there is the opportunity for low-income candidates to apply for a maximum of 50% waiver of the application fee and in the last round 2 people had secured fee assistance.

Russell detailed how candidates should prepare to approach their application (the importance of 3 years and 12 cases) and the kind of assessments made by the panel during the interview process. His frank insights into the hurdles of the process and solutions for going forward were most welcome.

Russell’s knowledge of the process was magnificently invaluable and those attending gained considerable information about what panel members are looking for in candidates and how the panel view independent assessors’ comments.

Sophie Lamb QC is a solicitor-advocate practising in litigation and arbitration at Latham & Watkins LLP. Sophie was called to the bar in 1998 but did not enjoy chambers life and decided to cross-qualify and become a solicitor in 2005. Sophie detailed her strategic approach to the competency framework and how she made sure she put herself in a position where she would be able to undertake cases that would demonstrate her ability to meet the criteria, including relying on some of her pro-bono caseload. Her structured approach was indicative of her competence with her own workload and it was a genuine treat to hear from one of only a handful of female solicitor-advocate QCs in the UK. This year only 5 solicitors took silk and Sophie was the only female in this cohort. Since taking silk she has received more instructions from HM Government.

Sonali Naik QC is a barrister practising in immigration and asylum law at Garden Court Chambers and is one of just 22 female BAME barristers to ever become a QC. Sonali entertained us with how she cautiously approached judges to be her judicial assessors and what the Appointments Commission seem to be looking for from judicial assessors. Both QCs commented on how the application requires time, in Sonali’s case she took one month to complete the form itself but had been preparing her steps and building her caseload to make the application for at least 2 years beforehand. Sonali explained how her working life evolved in the run up to submission of her application and since taking silk.

For anyone considering applying for silk, “this was a fantastic event with the perfect combo of speakers,” wrote an attendee. The success of the event has prompted AWB’s desire to do more events together with SAL in the future, so watch this space!

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