Law and the justice system – guidance

Nomination of counsel from the Attorney General: how to apply

For government departments and others wanting the Attorney General’s permission to use specialist lawyers (counsel) not already on the Attorney General’s approved panels.


One of the functions of the Attorney General is the appointment of all specialist lawyers (‘counsel’) who advise or appear on behalf of government. The recruitment process for the panel counsel system is designed to identify by open competition high-calibre counsel willing to undertake government work.

Solicitor advocates or junior barristers are appointed either to the civil or criminal panel system. The civil panels consist of a combined regional panel and London A, B and C panels, depending on level of experience. The criminal panels are nationwide.

However, there will be occasions when it is necessary to instruct a QC, and other occasions when no panel counsel with appropriate experience is available. In these circumstances, a department may ask the Law Officers to approve a nomination of counsel, either an off-panel junior or a silk.

The process for nominations

For a QC nomination or an off-panel civil junior counsel nomination the process is the same.

Off-panel criminal juniors are appointed by the management board of the unified list (who report to the Law Officers).

Subject to this, the system is as follows:

  1. A department identifies a need to instruct a QC, or, having looked thoroughly, cannot find available panel counsel with appropriate experience
  2. They identify suitable counsel and complete an AGO nominations proforma detailing the reasons for their choice
  3. The request is considered by the Law Officers and approval is either granted or denied
  4. If granted, the department is informed, and counsel instructed
  5. If denied, the department is informed

Send an email to to request a nomination of counsel proforma.

When filling out the proforma, please ensure that the boxes on question 4 are marked in this order:

  1. Left double-click the boxes to check
  2. Select ‘checked’ in the pop-up box
  3. Click ‘Ok’

Please also ensure the name of the case is provided.

Once completed, send to

For help, call the AGO on 020 7271 2501.

You need to select and fill in a proforma for each new request as it is revised from time to time.