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SA legal industry welcomes return of QC title

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The state’s legal industry has welcomed legislation which passed State Parliament last week to enable anyone who has been, or will be, appointed a Senior Counsel by the Supreme Court to use the alternative title of Queen’s Counsel.

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The SA Bar Association has been lobbying the State Government to reintroduce the monarchical title of QC, arguing that it has better recognition and that top barristers appointed SC are disadvantaged when seeking work overseas.

But the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Chris Kourakis SC, had savaged the Bar’s push, arguing it was potentially unconstitutional and would undermine the independence of the judiciary, because the Government would have had discretion about who to appoint to the title.

In a statement to InDaily this morning, Bar Association president Mark Hoffmann QC said the reinstatement of the title “ensures that barristers who may be appointed are recognised for their excellence in a way understood by consumers”.

“It will also enable QCs in SA to compete with those in particular in Victoria,” he said.

The Rann Labor Government abolished the QC title in favour of SC in 2008 in line with other state and territory jurisdictions that had discontinued its use, although then-QCs were allowed to retain their title.

Other jurisdictions have since moved to reintroduce the QC title, including Queensland and Victoria.

The new legislation enables Senior Counsel to apply to the Attorney-General to make a recommendation to the Governor that they be appointed as Queen’s Counsel, with the Attorney-General now required to make that application at their request.

In a statement to InDaily this morning Kourakis said the legislation “removes the discretion of the executive government to pick and choose which of the barristers, appointed as Senior Counsel by the Supreme Court, it will appoint as Queen’s Counsel”.

“The Act abrogates the executive’s prerogative in that regard so that any Senior Counsel who requests an appointment as Queen’s Counsel must now be so appointed,” he said.

“The legislation therefore addresses the primary concern of the judges that the appointment of Queen’s Counsel, in the discretion of the executive, compromised the independence of the legal profession and the judiciary.

“Accordingly, the judges will resume the practice of appointing Senior Counsel.”

Hoffmann said he was “very pleased… the judges of the Supreme Court will resume appointments of Senior Counsel”.

“It has been two years since appointments were made In South Australia,” he said.

“They are not only of fundamental importance to the legal profession but also for consumers of legal services in this state.

“The SA Bar Association is most grateful for the support of the Government and the Law Society of South Australia in facilitating the resolution of this issue.”

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said: “Restoring the use of QC provides a choice for members of the South Australian legal profession who have demonstrated outstanding ability as counsel as well as leadership within the profession.”

“There is some confusion and misunderstanding in the broader community about the use of the term Senior Counsel, which is less well known and regarded than the QC title which is universally recognised.

“The sector is also concerned that the title of Senior Counsel, or SC, is not as well known in the Asia-Pacific region, which makes it harder for those lawyers competing for international briefs.

“In addition to this, the SC title is easily confused with the title of ‘Special Counsel’, which applies to a number of in-house counsel within some businesses.”

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