The NSW Bar Council has formed a working party to help silks in NSW gain the right to use the QC post-nominal, despite previously indicating it would not take steps to reinstate the title.
Last year, the association decided against a motion to seek the Attorney-General’s support for the reinstatement of Queen’s Counsel in NSW.
The motion was rejected in light of a report by the Priestley Committee, chaired by L J Priestley QC, which found there was no public interest in approaching the Attorney-General.
The association’s then president, Philip Boulten SC, also raised concerns that the independence of the NSW Bar could be compromised by involving the Executive Government in the silk appointment process.
On Friday (15 May), NSW Bar Association president Jane Needham SC announced that the Bar Council had changed its position and would now support efforts to give senior counsel the option of using the title of QC.
In a statement, Ms Needham said the new working party would work towards providing silks with the choice of adopting QC, while ensuring that such a move does not compromise of the independence of the NSW Bar.
“It will be important to ensure the integrity of the senior counsel appointment process, and the restriction of the appointment of QCs to only those persons who have been appointed as Senior Counsel in New South Wales under the Bar Association’s Silk Selection Protocol.”
The working party will consult widely, and with the Chief Justice who has an integral role in the silk selection process.
Both the Victorian and Queensland government recently restored the QC post-nominal in their respective state.
Since the decision was made in Victoria in February last year, the vast majority of silks have applied to be appointed as QC.
The state followed Queensland’s lead, with Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie dumping SC altogether in 2013.
Seventy of that state’s 73 senior counsel changed their title to QC in the wake of that announcement.
Unlike Victoria or Queensland, re-introducing the QC title in NSW requires a legislative amendment.
The Legal Profession Act 2004 (NSW) currently prohibits official schemes for recognition of seniority or status, including “the prerogative right or power of the Crown to appoint persons as QC”.