‘Queen’s Counsel’ no more, ‘King’s Counsel’ return to UK courts after 70 years

‘Queen’s Counsel’ no more, ‘King’s Counsel’ return to UK courts after 70 years

‘Queen’s Counsel’ no more, ‘King’s Counsel’ return to UK courts after 70 years

Written by Teena Marian

14 Sep, 2022 | 1:44 pm

(Reuters) – The former Prince Charles is not the only one getting used to having "King" in his title all of a sudden.

About 1,900 elite UK lawyers and hundreds of others in Commonwealth countries who held the rank of "Queen's Counsel" became "King's Counsel" when Queen Elizabeth died last week, instantly assuming a title that had gathered dust since the queen took the throne in 1952.

They must now use the shorthand KC rather than QC on letterhead and other materials, according to The Bar Council, which represents more than 1,650 barristers in England and Wales. Barristers are UK litigators who argue in court, while solicitors are general practitioners who typically do not.

"The change of our names will be a constant reminder that the Queen has gone," said London-based King's Counsel Lord Peter Goldsmith, a partner at law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and who was the United Kingdom's attorney general from 2001 to 2007.

There are also practical ramifications. Lawyers took to social media soon after the queen's death describing a scramble to update profiles on law firm websites and discussing the cost of new stationery — alongside many references to the disco and funk music group KC and the Sunshine Band.

"It will certainly take some time to get used to 'KC'," said Jeffrey Sullivan, a London-based partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and King's Counsel. "I imagine there will be a few slip ups over the next few months as lawyers, judges and clients adjust to the new title."

The rank is little known in the United States but a familiar feature of the legal hierarchy in Commonwealth countries from Australia and New Zealand to Jamaica and parts of Canada. It is reserved for senior and highly respected lawyers and has historically been bestowed upon barristers, though the process opened up to British solicitors in 1996.

Those who hold the title in Britain are informally called "silks" — a reference to the special silk gowns they wear in court along with the traditional wigs sported by many barristers. They are appointed by the Crown following a years-long application process.

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