Around 70 barristers met at the NSW Leagues Club on Monday (25 August) to debate whether the Bar Council should reconsider seeking the Attorney-General’s support for the re-instatement of QC in NSW.
Alan Sullivan QC from Eleven Wentworth presented the ‘yes’ case and Garry McGrath SC from 8 Wentworth presented the ‘no’ case.
Rick Burbidge QC from Sydney’s State Chambers was the moderator.
The meeting concluded with an overwhelming majority of attendees voting in favour of restoring the QC post-nominal, with four dissentients.
Burbidge is currently writing a report on the meeting, which is due to be completed next week.
In May, the Bar Council rejected a motion brought by Sydney barrister John Hyde Page to allow silk appointees to adopt the QC title.
Philip Boulten SC, president of the NSW Bar Association at the time, said the decision was informed by the findings of a seven-member working group chaired by the Hon L J Priestley QC that voted against the motion four to three.
Burbidge, who called this week’s meeting, has previously claimed that the Bar Council did not provide a sufficient explanation for its decision.
A good clean fight
When asked about the mood of the meeting, Burbidge said it went “extremely well” irrespective of the outcome of the vote.
“There was no rancour, it was collegiate,” he added.
In June, Burbidge circulated a memo on the subject of revisiting the QC debate. That memo attracted 484 responses; 191 respondents were in favour of a meeting to discuss the topic, 186 were not interested in a meeting and 108 were against calling a meeting.
NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham SC told Lawyers Weekly at the time that the retention of the current SC system was “a decision made correctly in my view”, adding that she had no plans to revisit the issue.