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What Is a Silk Lawyer?
(The Benefits & Appointment Process)

Awards & recognition
C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.


The Queen's Counsel (QC), formally known as the Silk, is a prestigious title given to an eminent lawyer by Her Majesty in the courts of law.  The status of "Her Majesty's Counsel Learned in The Law" recognizes their expertise and experience in law, which makes them Senior Advocates or Senior Counsel. 

Courts recognize the queen's counsel as a position of honor bestowed upon them by the Crown. In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about a silk lawyer and its services.

Quick Summary

  • Queen's counsel is a status appointed by the Crown to function as “Her Majesty’s Counsel Learned In The Law,” which courts recognize in the commonwealth countries. 
  • QC has traditionally been selected from barristers because they were counsel appointed to conduct court work on behalf of the monarchy. 
  • Awarded members often wear silk gowns with a particular design, so the recognition of QCs is affectionately referred to as "taking silk," and those receiving this honor are called silks.

What Is A Silk Lawyer?

A silk lawyer holding a gavelA silk lawyer is a specialist legal adviser and courtroom advocate in commonwealth countries.  They are independent, objective, and trained to advise clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their cases [1]Queen's counsel appoints them as "Her Majesty's Counsel Learned in The Law."

This means they have specialist knowledge and a particular level of experience in and out of court, which can make a substantial difference to the outcome of a case.  They are also known as a senior barrister. Successful applicants tend to be senior or junior barristers.

The majority of barristers within the legal profession are self-employed and may either work as lone practitioners or in groups known as chambers.  Additionally, many barristers work for public/private sector organizations or work alongside solicitors in law firms.

What Is An Appointed King's Counsel Or Senior Counsel?

A silk lawyer holding a gavelAn appointed king’s council is an exclusive group of elite barristers recognized for their exceptional abilities, which, upon taking Silk, become the appointed King's Counsel or Senior Counsel (SC).

In another scenario, in the case of a queen's death, the government will appoint her counsel king's counsel.  All such counselors are collectively referred to as SC and selected based on merit rather than a particular level of experience.

Experienced and renowned barristers have been granted the honorary title of Senior Counsel.   Such an accolade indicates their exemplary standing in law and a public acknowledgment that the government can trust them to provide exceptional advocacy and advice for our justice system in the commonwealth countries.

Senior counsels are often referred to fondly as "taking silk" because they wear silk gowns to the supreme court - contrasted with a junior barrister.  Junior barristers tend to wear wool cotton gowns. 

What Does A Silk Lawyer Do?

A silk lawyer standing and posingA silk lawyer does whatever is necessary to succeed in their client's case, whether it's appearing in court or offering legal advice. They are responsible for researching the facts of a case, interviewing witnesses and clients, drafting pleadings and documents, preparing witness statements, presenting arguments in court, cross-examining witnesses, managing workloads, corresponding with the court, and handling appeals.

Silk lawyers must be familiar with law principles and have strong research and analytical skills to apply legal precedent in their cases.  They must also possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills to represent their clients effectively.

The below outlines their obligations to their client:

Advice And Opinions

Barristers are renowned for their expertise in advocating and litigating within the court system and recognizing key elements of a case.

Advocacy/Litigation

Close up shot of a lawyer's gavelShould you choose to pursue a trial, an experienced senior barrister will advocate for your interests and provide proficient representation with the following:

  • Expertise in their legal field
  • A comprehensive understanding of the principles and practical application of evidence rules
  • An in-depth comprehension of litigation strategies.
  • Discerning the most fitting case preparation techniques is a critical skill set.
  • Convincing adversaries or the court of your client's case merits a critical skill.

Related Article: 6 Signs That My Lawyer Is Not Fighting for Me

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR is the umbrella term for resolving disputes without taking them through lengthy and costly court proceedings.  With ADR, you can swiftly settle conflicts in a cost-effective and mutually beneficial manner, ultimately discovering solutions that work best for everyone involved.

How Is A Silk Lawyer Appointed?

A silk lawyer with his hand out and holding a gavelA silk lawyer is appointed based on merit rather than years of practice.  The queen's counsel has approximately a decade to fifteen years of experience in the field; given this expertise, they charge higher fees than other attorneys and often serve as consultants for dissimilar cases.

Moreover, these premier barristers generally work with an associate barrister known as their "junior barrister."  Applications for Queen's Counsel open annually, and interested lawyers must complete a form [2].

Successful applicants tend to receive letters of patents issued by Her Majesty the Queen to become one of Her Majesty's Counsels learned in the law.

"Those barristers taking Silk during Queen Elizabeth II's reign were Queen's Counsel. Upon the queen's death, the queen's counsel immediately became king's counsel."
- The Bar Council

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FAQs

What Does It Mean To Become A Silk?

To become a silk means that a Queen's Counsel is a lawyer who is selected based on merit rather than experience.  Silk is usually a senior barrister who has been honored with the official appointment through letters patent issued from Her Majesty. This honorary title denotes respect and admiration and implies that they are experienced in the law - known as Senior Advocate.

Why Are Queen's Counsel Colloquially Called Silks?

A Queen's Counsel is colloquially called silks because it is a homage to the traditional attire of choice for appointed queen's counsel members. Senior advocate tends to wear silk gowns in the supreme court, and junior barristers tend to wear wool.

What Is A Barrister?

A barrister is a lawyer who is involved in courtroom advocacy and litigation. A senior advocate is comparable to advocates in America, although "trial lawyers" or "litigators" here may take on roles beyond the courtroom that barristers do not.

Want To Contact a Silk Lawyer?

To gain access to the expertise of a barrister, it is customary in the legal profession to involve solicitors as they have an established rapport with barristers and can identify which one best suits your case.

If you need a queen's counsel for your case, contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP , and speak with one of our distinguished silk lawyers.

Our experienced team will help you find the perfect barrister to handle every stage, from recommending them initially to giving their final instructions. 


References:

  1. https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/silk
  2. https://www.nzbar.org.nz/news/applications-appointment-queen-s-counsel