Ten Queen's Counsel appointed in 2021

The  Attorney-General, Hon. David Parker, announced today the appointment of ten new Queen's Counsel. “The criteria for appointment recognise that excellence and leadership in the profession should be viewed through a wider, community lens.  I am pleased to see that the profession continues to make a good contribution to access to justice,” David Parker said.

NZBA President, Paul Radich QC has offered his congratulations to them for their significant achievement in reaching Silk status. 

The new Queen’s Counsel are:

  • Auckland – Lynda Kearns, Stephen McCarthy, Ronald Mansfield, Alan (Fletcher) Pilditch, Davey Salmon, Laura O’Gorman 
  • Wellington – Greg Arthur, Michael Colson, Victoria Heine
  • Christchurch – Kerryn Beaton  

More information about the QCs will be available on our website shortly. The NZBA will hold congratulatory dinners for the call ceremonies for the newly appointed Silks. Members will be advised once call ceremony details are confirmed.

Mr Radich notes that appointment as Queen’s Counsel reflects the applicants’ exceptional qualities as counsel, from legal skills through to leadership in the profession.  “It is important to understand that those who have been selected are exemplars of the qualities that are required: excellence, knowledge of the law, a commitment to improving access to justice, advanced advocacy skills, independence, integrity and leadership.  It is about much more than just the number of years that a barrister has spent in practice.” says Mr Radich.  “The process for appointing Queen’s Counsel has become considerably more robust over the years, and the criteria better defined, reflecting the care with which the final selections are made. There are strong quality controls in place in the interests of the public and the profession.”

Mr Radich notes that there is wide ranging and careful consultation by the Attorney-General. The Bar Association is one of the organisations that is involved. “In our case, our role is assessment – not selection. We have a panel of 14 Silks from throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. They include the most senior male QC holding a practising certificate, and the most senior female criminal silk. The panel checks every one of the eighty plus applications against the regulatory criteria, reads the cases and articles identified in their applications, and then make enquiries of the referees. There are then a series of lengthy meetings with the panel to discuss the applications.”

Mr Radich said that the assessment process is very time consuming as close attention is paid to each of the applications and references are checked.  “Everyone is treated as a contender for the shortlist in round 1 of the assessment process,” he says. “We only start developing a short list after this work – which can take a number of hours for each person.”

The process is also managed carefully to ensure that the applicants are checked by QCS who do not have personal connections or overly close work ties with applicants, and who preferably are not from the same region. The panel does not get to choose who they assess, and panel members are required to identify any conflicts of interest at an early stage. Former Bar Association President, Kate Davenport QC, who oversaw the development of the new assessment process in 2019, noted that the regional switch has been very helpful in ensuring objective views.

Ms Davenport smiles at suggestions that candidates are chosen on the basis of their schools.  “I have no idea what schools they come from,” she says. “Strangely enough, that information is not on their applications and at this level of the profession, as someone who has been in the room, let me tell you that no one cares about high school!”

Ms Davenport also notes that as far as the Bar Association is concerned, there is no gender quota. “Of course, in a perfect world we would have equity and a much higher number of women QCs in the profession. But the assessment process requires the application of statutory criteria and that is what we do.  However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot separately look at how we can bring more diversity to the ranks by mentoring and promoting equitable briefing as part of our membership activities.”

“At the end of our work”, says Mr Radich, “we have created a list of those who are considered to be at QC level. But that does not mean that they will be appointed. Applicants go through a further screening process and the final choice of names and numbers is made by the Attorney-General, in consultation with the Chief Justice.”

The stringent assessment process for applicants has been the Bar Association’s response to claims in the past that there is insufficient transparency in the process. However, there is of course a tension between transparency and protecting the privacy of individuals. “The Bar Association is always conscious that those who apply are entitled to confidentiality. They have authorised us to speak to their referees and the members of our panel all do that. We may go back to the candidate if there are questions, but otherwise, assessments are made by considering carefully the materials identified in the applications. 

The process is objective, thorough and comprehensive.  The time that has invested by each member of the panel reflects the importance of the task and the significance of the decisions that result. We thank them for their hard work.

Again, we are truly delighted by the appointments that have been made today.  It is a real pleasure to see such inspirational people being recognised through the rank.

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