On 19 February the government announced the appointment of 104 new Queen's Counsel. The awards were made under a selection process agreed between the Law Society and the Bar Council and approved by the Lord Chancellor in 2004, which commenced in 2005. The process uses a framework of defined competencies, aimed at identifying excellence in senior advocates. However the future of the QC rank has not yet been determined. Following a public consultation in 2003, as part of the government's consultations on constitutional reform, it was decided there was not enough evidence to decide whether or not it should be retained and further research in this area is expected by the new oversight regulator, the Legal Services Board.
In the meantime, the Law Society has carried out a survey among members, seeking their views about the process and the Society's future stance towards appointments. 170 responses were received, the majority of whom were concerned with the burden and cost of the application and the length of time the selection process takes to complete. Many respondents also consider the system to be biased towards barristers. There were 3 solicitors appointed QC in the recent announcement, from only 4 applicants. Other survey results showed respondents were divided on whether the award should be broadened from the current emphasis on advocacy in the higher courts to a wider mark of professional excellence, and also whether or not the Society should continue its support for the current process, which it has announced it will consider in the coming year.