Women were more than twice as likely as men to be appointed Queen’s Counsel this year, it has emerged, after 101 new QCs were named yesterday.
Of the 276 applications received (down five on 2020), 73 were from women – 53 were interviewed and 45 recommended for appointment, 62% of applicants. By contrast, 28% of men succeeded.
The gap has grown from last year, when 56% of female applicants were appointed, compared with 36% of men.
Sir Alex Allan, chair of QC Appointments’ selection panel, said this was the first time that the proportion of women amongst those appointed exceeded the proportion in the relevant segment of the profession.
“This reflects the high standard of their applications and assessments,” he added.
Some 39 applicants (14% of the total) declared an ethnic origin other than White and 15 were appointed, meaning 38% of applicants from a minority ethnic background were successful, compared with 36% of White applicants.
Sir Alex said: “The proportion of applicants from a minority ethnic background who have been appointed is also broadly equal to the proportion of minority ethnic advocates in the relevant segment of the profession, although it is disappointing that within that group, there are comparatively few applicants from black African or black Caribbean backgrounds.”
Demonstrating an understanding of diversity and cultural issues is one of the five competencies potential QCs are judged against – the report of the 2021 competition said applicants who fell short of excellence in relation to diversity were not recommended for appointment.
“Although there were no applicants who were not recommended because of shortcomings on diversity alone, two applicants who reached the required standard on understanding and using the law and advocacy were not recommended because they did not reach the required standard on either working with others or on diversity.”
This year 17 applicants declared a disability and six were appointed, while four of the nine applications who said they were gay succeeded.
The 36 applications aged 40 or younger were notably more successful than the 87 who were 51 or over – 47% appointment rate against 20%.
There were 21 applications from solicitor-advocates, compared with 15 last year, and five were appointed. None of the four employed advocates who applied made it through.
The report said that, at 45%, the number of applicants who failed to make it through the initial sift was significantly higher than in the previous three years (37%, 30% and 28% respectively).
In all, 37% of all applicants were appointed, after 68% were interviewed.
In 2021, 101 applicants had applied in at least one of the three previous competitions; 45 were not invited to interview, although 26 of these had been interviewed in at least one of the previous three years, and 36 ultimately were appointed.
There was no real difference between the proportion of repeat and first-time applicants invited to interview or appointed.