Only 18% of applicants for silk this year were women, but they were far more likely to be appointed than men, it has emerged as 119 new QCs were named today.
QC Appointments (QCA), the body that oversees the process, expressed concern at the continuing low number of both female and solicitor applicants.
In all, there were 272 applications in 2017, of which just 50 came from women.
However, 32 (64%) of them were successful – the second-highest figure for over 20 years – compared to 39% of the men.
That meant that 27% of the new QCs are women. The most recent figures for the profession show that women make up 36% of the practising Bar and 14% of QCs.
Some 33 applicants declared an ethnic origin other than white. This was around 12% of all applicants, the same as the latest available figures for the percentage of BAME practitioners at the Bar.
More than half of them (18) were appointed, compared to 43% of applicants whose declared ethnic origin was white.
Most of the new QCs are aged between 40 and 50, although 12 of them are 40 or under and 21 51 or older. The younger applicants were more likely to be appointed than the older ones.
None of the three applicants with a declared disability made it through to interview.
As usual, the number of solicitor applicants was low – just 10, of whom five were appointed, most notably high-profile criminal law specialist Imran Khan, best known for his work acting for the family of Stephen Lawrence.
The others are all arbitration specialists at big City law firms: Philip Clifford and Sophie Lamb of Latham & Watkins, Louis Flannery of Stephenson Harwood and Reza Mohtashami of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
QCA said: “We remain concerned that the level of applications from solicitor-advocates remains comparatively low. For whatever reason, there appears to be some hesitancy on the part of solicitor advocates to apply for silk, even where they may be well qualified to do so.
“We will continue to liaise with the Solicitors Association of Higher Courts Advocates and with the Law Society to explore what can be done to overcome this problem.”
Litigator Janet Legrand, the interim global co-chairman of DLA Piper, was among those granted honorary QC status.
Most applicants declared their sexual orientation and nine said they were gay. Four of them were appointed.
Sir Alex Allan, chair of the selection panel, said: “The selection process is a rigorous and demanding one. We collect confidential assessments from judges, fellow advocates and professional clients, who give freely of their time to provide evidence about an applicant’s demonstration of the competencies.
“Those applicants who are not filtered out following consideration of the assessments are then interviewed by two members of the selection panel, following which the whole panel discuss all the evidence on each interviewed applicant.
“We remain concerned that the number of female applicants remains comparatively low, but I am pleased that of those women who did apply, over 60% were successful. I was also pleased to note that 18 BAME applicants were appointed, a record number.
“Each year, the panel has the difficult task of identifying the truly excellent advocates. I am confident that those appointed today truly deserve to be Queen’s Counsel.”
The full list of new QCs can be found here.