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As we begin preparing for the next KC competition, I want to take the opportunity to outline a summary of the process of selection, clarify some common misconceptions and confirm a slightly changed timeline for 2024.

Demonstrating consistent excellence

The award of King’s Counsel is for those who demonstrate consistent excellence in advocacy in the higher courts of England and Wales or in tribunals or arbitrations. As the King’s Counsel Selection Panel, we make recommendations based on evidence from your assessors – judges, practitioners and clients who have experience of your work and ability – selected from the cases you have nominated. The cases selected by you as the applicant must be of substance – which in the context of our framework means that they should be of particular complexity, difficulty or sensitivity.

The competency framework against which we make our recommendations was established by the sector. Our remit is to consider whether applicants have demonstrated the competencies in the competency framework to a high standard of excellence. The selection process is necessarily therefore a rigorous and thorough one.

We appreciate that the process can feel daunting to applicants. I would like to assure you that all aspects of the process are extensively explained on our website. We have made every effort to clarify what information is needed, what applicants should consider when they make an application, and even how to prepare for interview, should you get to that stage in the process.

We continue to refine our guidance as we get feedback from applicants and assessors. We are reflective of our work and impact. We continue to improve our systems and upskill the panel on a regular basis. Our processes are audited by a third party to provide quality assurance. We receive specialised training as a panel and invite regular briefings from sector bodies. In addition, we have a series of webinars and presentations – online and in person – planned throughout the year designed to encourage applicants of all backgrounds to feel confident about their applications.

Clarifying misconceptions

The ‘12 cases within the past three years’ criteria is a strict rule and I therefore cannot apply if I am unable to provide these

The panel appreciates that some applicants may not be able to provide 12 cases in the past three years. We do not wish to discourage those who may have taken a career break or have a practice that lends itself to particularly long cases or inquiries. Having fewer than 12 cases, or choosing cases beyond the three-year threshold, is not a bar to application provided you are able to explain your reasons.

The risk to listing fewer than 12 cases is that there may be less breadth of evidence required to demonstrate consistent excellence. Choosing cases beyond three years runs the risk that your assessors may not remember the detail of your work and their evidence may not be as robust.

Some of these risks can be mitigated. You may consider sending any relevant documents to your assessors as an aide memoire – although please do not ask an assessor if they have been approached or write the assessment for them.

I need a coach to succeed in the KC competition

Some applicants tell us they feel they need a coach to succeed in the KC competition. We understand why you may feel this is necessary but what I can say from experience is that paying for a coach certainly does not guarantee a successful outcome; in some cases it can prove to be positively detrimental as the application and interview material looks and reads formulaic, and is often repeated across many different applicants. It can undermine the applicant’s own unique experience and expertise.

I would strongly encourage you to use the published information on our website and attend one of our many events specifically designed to help clarify the application process and address any issues or concerns you may have. The fantastic team at the secretariat is also very happy to answer any questions.

I haven’t done an interview since pupillage – I definitely need a coach for that!

The purpose of the interview is to seek additional information or clarify existing information we have about you from your assessors. No decisions are made at the interview itself. The information is taken back to the panel for a further full round of deliberations.

In keeping with the rest of the process, the interview is based on the competency framework. The best way to approach the interview is by preparing examples from your cases (listed and unlisted) and familiarising yourself with the STAR technique. There is more information specifically about how to prepare for the interview on our website. As a Panel we are looking for information specific to you and your experience, not answers that a coach might suggest we want to hear.

I would strongly recommend our guide Providing your best evidence at a KC selection interview. More detail on the interview process can also be found in Interview all areas, Sara Nathan’s article for the Counsel Silk Supplement 2023.

I was narrowly unsuccessful in a previous competition and therefore will reach the same stage this year

Every application is considered afresh by the Selection Panel who seek new evidence, potentially from completely different assessors, in each competition. The panel and the secretariat take great care not to refer to previous applications in their considerations. The process is set up to take account for the fact that careers develop over time, and assessors’ knowledge and evidence about applicants can change, for better as well as worse. There is therefore no guarantee that an applicant will reach the same stage as in a previous round.

Timeline for 2024

In 2024, we have pushed back the competition opening date to minimise the length of time applicants have to wait for a result. Applications will therefore open on 8 March, for six weeks, with interviews held over three weeks from 30 September. The Selection Panel’s final recommendations will be sent to the Lord Chancellor in November, and we expect that applicants will be told the outcome of the competition in January 2025.

I hope that you have found this information helpful. Should you choose to apply for silk in 2024, I look forward to receiving your application and wish you every success.