16 Nov 2012

Labour snooty about QC title

6:27 pm on 16 November 2012

Labour says restoring the title of Queen's Counsel for top lawyers is an archaic farce.

The title will be reinstated under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Amendment Bill passed by Parliament.

The former Labour Government replaced the title QC with Senior Counsel in 2008, but the bill reverses the change.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says appointments will be restricted to independent barristers.

But Labour says it will return the title of Senior Counsel if it wins the next election.

MP Charles Chauvel, who is also a lawyer, says the Government is creating an old boys' network by restoring the title for top-tier lawyers.

He says unless all lawyers are eligible for the title rather than just independent barristers, the change is elitist.

Mr Chauvel says only a small, wealthy group of barristers will now be eligible, and it is a retrograde step.

But Justice Minister Judith Collins says the public has better access to this group of lawyers as they don't work for law firms and there's no conflict of interest.

"This is not just a matter of elitism as Charles has said. This is actually a matter of recognising superb litigation skills and making sure that those are always available to any member of the public who chooses or has to undertake litigation."

Ms Collins says the fees charged by Queen's Counsel lawyers are often a lot lower.

Senior Counsel who want to can convert their title to Queen's Counsel.