News story

Honorary QC nominations: deadline 21 September 2016

Seeking nominations for honorary QC – description of the rank , how to make a nomination, and a downloadable nomination form.

Queens Counsel

You are invited to nominate people for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk). Nomination forms must be returned to us by 21 September 2016.

The Ministry of Justice intends to recommend a number of people to Her Majesty for appointment as Queen’s Counsel ‘honoris causa’ (honorary silk) in spring 2017. We are inviting both the legal sector and the wider public to make nominations.

How to make a nomination

We welcome nominations for honorary silk from anyone. If you would like to suggest someone for appointment, please provide the following information:

  • the person’s full name
  • their contact details, if you know them
  • their legal qualifications, if you know them
  • your reasons for believing that the person you are nominating has made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts.

Please tell us:

  • what the person has done, where, and (if appropriate) for whom
  • how, in your opinion, this amounts to a major contribution - beyond what might normally be expected for someone in this person’s position.

Please give as much detail as you can. The more we know about a nominee, the easier it is to assess whether they meet the honorary silk criteria. If we have only a limited amount of information about someone, it is unlikely that we will be able to recommend them for appointment.

You can nominate as many people as you like, but please ensure that you keep their details separate.

You need to complete the nomination form and send it to us by 21 September 2016 preferably by email or alternatively post to:

Nalini Deen
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France


Honorary Queen's Counsel nomination form (MS Word Document, 33 KB)

Please note, we will only accept nominations which are included in the Nomination Form attached to this webpage. Letters of support for a candidate will not be accepted or attached to a nomination. In cases where more than one person wishes to nominate a single candidate, each individual must send in a separate form for the nominee. This gives a fuller representation of the candidate’s suitability for Honorary Silk.

Criteria for appointment

In making a nomination you should ensure that your nominee meets the required criteria set out below:

  • The award is open only to qualified lawyers and to legal academics. However, although the substantive QC rank can be awarded only to lawyers with rights of audience in the higher courts, the honorary rank is not so limited. It is available to any lawyer, whether in private practice, working as an employed lawyer, or in public service. ‘Public service’ includes any public-sector organisation - national government, local government, or other public bodies such as the CPS or the NHS - and also lawyers working in bodies such as charities or not-for-profit agencies.
  • Honorary silk is awarded to lawyers and legal academics that have made a major contribution to the law of England and Wales outside practice in the courts, which has not been recognised through other forms of honours.
  • ‘Major contribution to the law of England and Wales’ can be interpreted widely. It means not only contributions to the development of the law, but also to people’s understanding of it, their ability to make use of it, and its promotion. This potentially covers a wide range of activities so, while it is difficult to give a definitive list we would like to make it clear that we are happy to consider accomplishments in any area.
  • ‘Outside practice in the courts’ will generally mean that the award is made for an achievement other than a person’s normal practice as a lawyer or academic, which also brings with it a significant degree of public benefit. However, there is no definite boundary to this - for instance, the development of pro bono work is usually closely associated with practice. We would also consider particular distinction in both practice and academic law.

Please note that:

  • We recognise that those who are not lawyers or legal academics make equally valuable contributions to public life, and may have done so in similar fields, but we regret that the award of honorary silk is not available for such contributions. If you feel that someone in that position ought to be recognised, you can instead nominate them for an honour. If anyone is nominated for honorary silk who has been nominated for an honour this year or has already been honoured in the last year, it is very unlikely that we will be able to put their name forward.
  • Honorary QC is not a ‘working rank’. It cannot be used in practice as a lawyer and, although this has never been a problem, we strongly discourage holders from exploiting the rank to attract business. This does mean, regrettably, that honorary silk cannot be awarded as an alternative to the substantive QC rank for people who, for whatever reason, do not fit its eligibility criteria.
  • Honorary silk is awarded only in England and Wales. There is no exact equivalent to it for Scotland or Northern Ireland. This does not, of course, mean that achievements of this nature cannot be recognised in those jurisdictions. The honours system is able to do that. If you would like to nominate someone whose work is in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can contact the Scottish Executive or the Northern Ireland Court Service.

Honorary silk appointees 2016 (PDF, 197 KB, 3 pages)


The next substantive QC appointments are planned for spring 2017 and we expect to include honorary silk appointments with them. In line with standard practice, we would like to allow as much time as possible for nominations to be made, but we do need time to consider them and decide who should be recommended to Her Majesty. Because of this, please ensure that your nominations reach us no later than 21 September 2016. If we receive nominations after this date, we will do our best to include them, but we cannot guarantee that they will be considered.


The rank of Queen’s Counsel is awarded to advocates (barristers and solicitors) who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the conduct of advocacy. It has been awarded in various forms for around 400 years. Since 2005, an independent Selection Panel has made recommendations to the Lord Chancellor, using a new system of assessment based on competencies and rigorous analysis of evidence.

The rank of Queen’s Counsel honoris causa is separate. The first awards were made in the late nineteenth century and it has been the practice for governments to recommend a small number of lawyers and legal academics for the honorary rank with each round of substantive appointments. Despite its name, honorary silk is not part of the honours system and is administered separately within the Ministry of Justice.

Both versions of the QC rank were suspended in 2003 while the Department for Constitutional Affairs (as it then was) conducted a consultation exercise about the future of Queen’s Counsel. The QC Selection Panel was the result of that consultation. The first new awards of QC and QC honoris causa were made in October 2006.

Contact us

If you would like any more information about honorary silk or how to make a nomination, please feel free to contact us by phone on 020 3334 4220, or by email:

Published 21 July 2016