One solicitor appointed King’s Counsel out of 95-strong tally

Withers arbitration co-head celebrates as overall success rate for applications continues to decline
The High Court in London

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Just one solicitor has been selected to be a King’s Counsel (KCs) this year out of 95 successful applicants in total, exactly the same ratio and tally as in 2023.

Hussein Haeri, co-head of international arbitration and head of international public law at Withers, was one of seven solicitors to apply and one of two solicitor candidates to be invited to interview.

This year’s cohort to achieve the status of silk, named after the material of the gown worn by KCs, was chosen out of 283 applicants, representing a 34% success rate. While the number of applications was the highest for more than a decade, the success rate continues a steady decline from 2018, when the pass rate was 45%. 

At the same level as last year, meanwhile, the number of appointments has plateaued after declines in the previous two years: there were 116 appointments in 2021 and 101 in 2022.

Commercial sets saw steady but not spectacular appointments; Brick Court, Twenty Essex and Blackstone Chambers all had two silks appointed, as did Essex Court and Atkin Chambers, which celebrates the appointment of two female silks, Camille Slow and Jennifer Jones. 

Just one silk was appointed at 3 Verulam Buildings, Jane Davies Evans, the same as Fountain Court, where James Duffy was recognised, as was Sanjay Patel at 4 Pump Court.

More than double the number of men, 65, were appointed compared to the 30 women who made the grade. Female applicants, however, were more successful with their applications, achieving a success rate of 38% compared to the 32% achieved by men. However, in 2012, 63% of female applicants were successful. 

Some 79 women applied compared to 77 in 2023, making it the highest number to date. Women nevertheless made up just 28% of the total applicants, from which 62% were invited to interview, which Kings Counsel Appointments (KCA) – the independent body responsible for KC appointments – noted was higher than the proportion of men invited to that phase of the process.

There were 48 applicants who declared an ethnic origin other than white of whom 13 were successful; a success rate of 27%, as opposed to last year, when 14 applicants were successful from 43 applicantions (32.5%).

Monisha Shah, chair of the KCA, said: “We continue to monitor diversity data closely, and while I would not expect successful applications from those with protected characteristics to increase every year, I am pleased to note that application rates from people of minority ethnic backgrounds and female applicants are strong and the number of successful applications remains broadly in line with the eligible population.”

Meanwhile, eight applicants who declared a disability were appointed, representing a 47% success rate, and eight of the 17 candidates who identified as LGB+ were successful.

With just one solicitor appointed as a KC, the number of solicitor advocates chosen remains at its lowest since 2010 for a second year. Last year, Michael McClure, a disputes partner at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), was appointed from eight applicants. This compares to five silks being appointed in 2022, the same number as in 2021

Law Society president Nick Emmerson noted that 217 solicitors have applied for silk since 1995, of whom 65 have been selected.

He said: “While the number of solicitors applying for KC status reflects the historic division of advocacy work between the Bar and solicitors, we believe the overall number of solicitor applicants and successful appointments – particularly from diverse backgrounds – could be higher.”

Emmerson stressed awards must be made on merit, with the Society supporting “a robust application process”. 

He added: “We are committed to seeing an improvement in the statistics of successful solicitor appointments. We will continue working with the KCA to increase awareness among our members of the steps involved in applying for KC status. We are keen to help eligible solicitors demonstrate their unique skills and experience and are calling for greater recognition as part of the qualifying process.”

Former Law Society president Christina Blacklaws sits on the panel, as have many of her predecessors in the past.

One employed barrister – a CPS prosecutor in Manchester – was appointed, the first appointment since 2020. Each application to the self-funded KCA costs £2,370, with a further £3,990 paid by successful appointees. 

Click here to read the full list of appointees.

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