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Bar Association Celebrates Appointments

Media Release
28 November 2018

Bar Association Celebrates Appointments of New Queen’s Counsel

The New Zealand Bar Association congratulates 10 barristers whose appointment as Queen’s Counsel has just been announced by the Attorney-General. "This is an important event not just for those who have achieved this rank, but for the independent bar as a whole,” says NZBA President Kate Davenport QC, “Appointment as Queen's Counsel recognises those barristers who have excelled both as advocates and as leaders of the profession. The initials “QC” after a barristers name connotes excellence and leadership."

This is the first year that an equal number of women and men have been appointed to the rank. Ms Davenport notes the importance of diversity within the profession and is pleased that the appointments further the aim of ensuring that the legal profession more accurately reflects the kind of society that we would all like to live in.

Ms Davenport also emphasised that appointment as a Silk (Queen’s Counsel) carries with it the responsibility of continuing the leadership of the profession and of giving back to the profession through that leadership, particularly in terms of sharing wisdom and experience with more junior members of the bar. "This is not a final destination for our new members of the inner (or senior) bar,” she said. "It is the beginning of a new stage in their career where the profession will look to them to fearlessly uphold the rule of law and to ensure that standards of excellence and advocacy are maintained at the bar."

Ms Davenport also noted that the contribution made by Queen’s Counsel to pro bono work cannot be underestimated. “We look to the new Silks to continue to make a significant impact in this area. This is an important contribution that is made by the most senior members of the profession to society as a whole. "

Congratulations to all those who were recently called to the Inner Bar:
• Paul John Dale, Auckland
• Maria Jean Dew, Auckland
• Margaret Anne Stevens, Dunedin
• Vivienne Anne Crawshaw, Auckland
• James Richard Rapley, Christchurch
• Fiona Elizabeth Guy Kidd, Invercargill
• Anthony James Frank Wilding, Christchurch
• Belinda Le Sellars, Auckland
• Andru Nicolae Isac, Wellington
• Robert James Hollyman, Auckland

Background to appointments

Those who are appointed as Queen’s Counsel are said to have “taken Silk”. The phrase refers to the fact that Queen’s Counsel traditionally wore silk gowns in court. As Silks, they sit at the Inner Bar, which is the area of the court immediately in front of the bench. They are considered to be the senior members of the legal profession.

Appointments of Queen’s Counsel are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General and with the concurrence of the Chief Justice. Candidates must be barristers who demonstrate overarching requirements of excellence, showing length and depth of experience. They must have expert up-to-date legal knowledge and show superior skill in oral and/or written persuasive argument. Barristers are required to demonstrate independence and their commitment to their clients’ interests. Candidates must also show integrity, honesty and leadership in maintaining the profession's standards.

The history of Silks is said to have begun in in 1597 when Sir Francis Bacon was appointed the first Queen’s Counsel Extraordinary. He was given a patent which gave him precedence at the Bar. He was formally styled King’s Counsel in 1603. It was in the early 1830’s in the United Kingdom that Queen’s Counsel became prominent and eventually, the title became synonymous with excellence at the Bar rather than mere seniority, with appointments based on merit. The first Queen’s Counsel to be appointed in New Zealand were appointed 1907 by the then Chief Justice, Sir Robert Stout. We had to wait until the late 1980’s for women to appear on the list. The Rt Hon Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and Justice Lowell Goddard became our first women QCs. The latest appointments bring the number of women silks currently practising to 29.

New Zealand briefly adopted the title Senior Counsel in 2006, only to reintroduce Queen’s Counsel in 2012. The title is a standard of excellence and merit which is recognised globally. The post nominal QC (or KC) tells a client that they are getting one of the best. It is a living symbol not just of the history of the legal profession, but the qualities it should strive to maintain. It is a way for the profession to recognise achievement beyond the ordinary in its members. Holders of the title can be justifiably proud of their achievements in their legal careers.


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