We are regularly asked questions about QCs, most likely because the image of leading barristers has been epitomised over the years in popular television dramas such as Kavanagh QC and Silk, it is therefore understandable that you may wish to discover more and consider whether you should instruct a QC to defend your case.
So, first, what is a QC?
A QC, to put it somewhat grandly, is 'one of Her Majestys' Counsel, learned in the law.'
The first thing to point out is that there is no actual connection to Her Majesty, as QCs, while appointed with the final say-so of the Queen, are in fact carefully chosen by an independent appointments commission.
In practical terms, QCs are solicitors or barristers who have been able to demonstrate the highest courtroom skills; it is awarded in recognition of excellence in advocacy.
While the figures fluctuate year on year, approximately 10% of the bar (barristers profession) are QCs, so it is a pretty exclusive group. There are very few solicitor QCs as the eligibility of solicitors to apply was only extended to them quite recently, and only a relatively small number of solicitors specialise in advocacy.
There are also honorary QCs who in the main do not practice at all (such as legal academics), or if they do are not permitted to use the title for that purpose.
Do I need a QC?
There are a number of things to consider. The first is that the QC may not be the most appropriate person for the job. In many cases, prior to proceedings in the magistrates' court, it is often advisable to instruct a highly experienced local solicitor who has knowledge of the court and court procedures of this type. It may well be that a QC who is accustomed to defending fraud cases at the Old Bailey may be quite ill-equipped to represent someone on a drink-driving accusation at Warrington Magistrates' Court.
But, generally speaking, in a perfect world, it makes sense to instruct the best available advocate, if at all possible. It's just that 'the best' may not always mean a QC.
If the case is not particularly complex, it may well be that an appropriately experienced junior advocate can more than adequately deal with it. There are also some niche areas where a junior advocate may actually have greater experience; as is often the case regarding regulatory work.
It is also critical that the advocate works seamlessly as a team with your solicitor to ensure the optimum case preparation; this is something that we view as essential as it can significantly affect the overall outcome.
Where liberty is at stake, it is, however, understandable that some people may wish to leave nothing to chance, and will feel a particular level of reassurance in instructing a QC.
So, for most people, the question is not 'should I?', but more of a case of 'can I?'.
So, can I instruct a QC?
If you are privately funding your own defence costs, the pertinent question is whether you can afford to instruct a QC. In some instances, it may be feasible to instruct a QC alone to defend, but in others, a QC and junior advocate will be required (and ironically might be more cost-effective).
It is impossible to give indicative costs as this will vary considerably depending on the nature of the case, the volume of papers, whether it is a contested trial or a guilty plea, and if there's a trial, the likely length.
In all but the most straightforward guilty plea cases, the cost can soon reach into the tens of thousands, so for all but a wealthy minority, this is a considered decision and one that should be given significant thought. We will of course carefully navigate you through all of the available options.
If your case is legally aided, then it is highly unlikely that we can instruct a QC unless the case is one of particular gravity or the utmost complexity. Many might assume for example that a QC would be granted in all murder cases, but surprisingly that is not the case. If the option of a QC is available, we will make the application on your behalf and advise of the outcome.
Many people ask whether they or someone on their behalf can privately fund a QC while receiving legal aid funding for the other elements of the case. If that is something that you would like to discuss, then please raise this with us at the earliest opportunity.
In conclusion, there are many cases where a QC is desirable if it can be achieved, however, the vast majority of cases will not merit a QC, and you can be assured that we will ensure representation designed to achieve the best possible outcome.
As a firm, we are enormously proud of the strong working relationship that we have built with all of the advocates we regularly instruct. It is perhaps this close relationship more than anything else which affects case outcomes, so even in the event that you are not able to secure a QC to represent you, you should not feel that you are not getting the very best service.
How we can assist?
Our Jared McNally almost exclusively defends in serious and complex crime. He has appeared in many high profile cases. Given the constraints on legal aid, Jared has developed a significant private practice representing individuals and professionals in various fields. A criminal conviction for many of his clients would destroy their career, reputation and family. As a result Jared now has a national private practice and is often instructed by professionals across the UK including London, Guernsey and the Isle of Sheppey.
If you need any help or assistance please contact Jared McNally on firstname.lastname@example.org or any one of our criminal defence solicitors on 01612492700.