We are frequently asked questions about QCs, most likely because leading barristers have been portrayed in popular television dramas such as Silk and Kavanagh QC over the years. It is therefore understandable that you would want to learn more and consider whether you should instruct a QC to defend your case.
So, first, what is a QC?
To put it a little more formally, a QC is “one of Her Majesty’s Counsel, learned in the law.”
The first thing to remember is that there is no actual relationship to Her Majesty, as QCs are appointed by an independent appointments panel, despite the Queen’s final power.
In practise, QCs are barristers or attorneys who have demonstrated exceptional courtroom skills; it is an accolade for advocacy excellence.
While the numbers change from year to year, QCs make up roughly 10% of the bar (legal profession), making them a very select club. Because the right for solicitors to apply was only recently given to them, and the number of solicitors who specialise in advocacy is quite low, there are very few solicitor QCs.
There are also honorary QCs who, in most cases (such as legal academics), do not practise at all or are not permitted to use the title for that purpose.
Do I need a QC?
There are a few things to think about. The first is that the quality control specialist may not be the best candidate for the job. In many circumstances, it is preferable to hire a highly experienced local counsel who is familiar with the court and this type of court procedure when appearing before the magistrates’ court. It’s possible that a QC who’s used to defending fraud cases in the Old Bailey will be useless in a drink-driving case at Warrington Magistrates’ Court.
In a perfect world, though, it makes sense to have the greatest available advocate if at all possible. However, the term ‘best’ does not automatically imply a Qc.
If the case isn’t too complicated, a junior advocate with a lot of experience may be able to handle it just well. There are some specialised areas where a junior advocate may have more experience; for example, we frequently see this in regulatory work.
It is also critical that the advocate and your solicitor work together to achieve the best possible case preparation; this is something we respect highly because it can have a substantial impact on the eventual outcome.
However, when liberty is at stake, it is reasonable that some people may want to leave nothing to chance and will feel more at ease instructing a QC.
So, for most people, the issue is not so much ‘should I?’ as ‘can I?’.
So, can I instruct a QC?
If you’re paying for your own defence, the most important consideration is whether you can afford to hire a QC. It may be conceivable to advise a QC to defend on his or her own in some cases, but in others, a QC and junior advocate will be required (and ironically might be more cost-effective).
It is impossible to give an estimate of expenses because they will vary substantially based on the type of case, the volume of papers filed, whether the case is a guilty plea or contested trial, and the length of the trial, if one is held.
In all but the most basic guilty plea situations, the cost can easily approach the tens of thousands of dollars, thus this is a well researched decision that should not be taken lightly by anybody but the very rich. Of course, we will thoroughly guide you through all of your alternatives.
If your case is legally assisted, we are unlikely to be able to appoint a QC unless the matter is of extreme gravity or complexity. Most people would believe that a QC would be allowed in every murder case, but this is not the case. If a QC is an option, we will apply for it on your behalf and inform you of the outcome.
Many individuals wonder if they or someone on their behalf can pay for a QC privately while still obtaining legal aid for the rest of the case. If this is something you’d want to talk about, please contact us as soon as possible.
To summarise, a QC is ideal in many circumstances if it can be obtained; but, the vast majority of cases will not deserve a QC, and you can rest certain that we will provide representation aimed to get the best possible result.
At Levy & Co Solicitors, we are extremely pleased of our firm’s solid working relationships with all of the attorneys we regularly educate. It is likely that this tight relationship, more than anything else, influences case results, so even if you are unable to get the services of a QC, you should not assume that you are not receiving the finest possible service.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819