You will be embarking on a journey that requires you to expose your work to the scrutiny of others, place your faith in the judgment of your assessors and ask yourself some difficult and uncomfortable questions. Though taking the silk route can be gruelling, the feedback we get from our exhausted (yet happy) clients is that it can mark the beginning of a new, exciting chapter in their careers.

Before you set off, it is worth taking a few moments to ask yourself these questions:

  • When is the right time to apply; both for you and those closest to you?
  • What might stop you applying? And how might you surmount these obstacles?
  • It has been a particularly gruelling year for most of us: do you have the time, energy and money to invest in this rigorous process, right now?
  • Have you got 12 key cases from the last two to three years that you are confident in presenting to a panel as substantive, sensitive, difficult or complex? If not, can you justify why you have fewer cases to offer or why you wish to include cases that are older than three years? Resist the temptation to ‘pad out’ your best cases with others that do not meet the criteria. The Selection Panel will assess whether your cases overall reach the standard.
  • Have you got judicial and practitioner assessors for each of your key cases and at least six client assessors? Will they have had enough exposure to you to remember who you are and your performance on their case(s)? And will they understand that success requires them to assess you as achieving a standard of ‘excellence’ and that describing you as merely ‘highly competent’ could be fatal to your application?
  • How confident are you that you can demonstrate, on your form and at interview, excellence in ‘Understanding and Using the Law’, ‘Written and Oral Advocacy’, ‘Working with Others’ and ‘Diversity’ (with ‘Integrity’ assumed unless there is evidence to the contrary)? We find that our clients, who are so talented and experienced in making a compelling case for their own clients, find it much more difficult when the spotlight is on them. You might take it for granted, but you will need to find a way to articulate the excellence in the way you use your skills and navigate challenges every day.
  • And finally, are you prepared for a demanding interview, where you have all to play for?

At Sherwood we find that for some of our clients, the answers to those questions mean that they are on their way to being ready – but are not there yet. If that is the case for you, here are a few hints and tips to help you prepare for a future application:

  • Begin to plan your application early. Speak to your clerks and your management team to agree a shape and direction for your practice that will underpin a strong application.
  • Choose your assessors carefully and contact them in good time to make sure they are willing to act and will be unequivocal in their support.
  • Take a note of the stories that evidence your excellence in the competencies as they arise.
  • Incorporate diversity into your practice early on – it’s not a ‘good look’ if your participation in equality and diversity initiatives starts just a few months in advance of your application.

When you are ready, and ideally well in advance, contact the Bar Group at to see how we can help.