The former head of the Queen?s Counsel selection panel has rejected Law Society proposals that would have increased the number of solicitors eligible to apply.

In a report published last week, Sir Duncan Nichol said that widening access to the current award ?would run a serious risk of brand damage and confusion, not least among the international community?.

Nichol was asked by Des Hudson and David Hobart, chief executives of the Law Society and the Bar Council, to examine how the QC selection process could be improved. The QC selection panel took over the appointment process from the Department for Constitutional Affairs in 2006. There are around 4,000 solicitor higher court advocates, but only 17 solicitor silks. In last year?s competition, one out of the six solicitors who applied was successful.

In its submission to Nichol?s inquiry, the Law Society said the criteria for silk were too narrow and should be extended to cover litigation and non-litigation work for partners in law firms.

But Nichol?s report concluded that it is not the right moment to ?re-ignite? a debate that was resolved and approved by the lord chancellor three years ago. He also declined to consider whether there should be a parallel award of ?Senior Counsel? to recognise the work of general counsel.

Nichol described the QC selection process as ?still relatively immature and vulnerable?, but the procedure and outcomes have the support and confidence of the interested parties, and it is capable of being refined and improved.

He recommended encouraging applications from law firms and the Crown Prosecution Service and promoting the QC honoris causa (honorary QC) award to practising lawyers.

Hudson and Hobart said: ?We are very grateful to Sir Duncan for completing his report in a very short timescale. His findings are a tribute to the panel and we are pleased that many of them can be implemented quickly.?

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