One consequence of of Queen Elizabeth II’s death on Thursday was that in a single moment, the industry’s Queen’s Counsel (QC) became King’s Counsel (KC) instead.
In a tweet posted on Thursday, the Bar Council wrote: “We have been advised by the Crown Office that the title Queen’s Counsel (QC) changes to King’s Counsel (KC) with immediate effect. The change is automatic so there are no new Letters Patent.”
Most major sets of chambers have updated their websites accordingly.
Kate Davies KC, who recently moved from Allen & Overy to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, told Law.com International: “The passing of the Queen is first and foremost a huge loss for her family. It is also a moment in history for us all. For me and all other Queen’s Counsel, it marks a change to King’s Counsel – a title which will likely now endure for at least 100 years given the male lineage of the Royal Family.”
This point was echoed by Louis Flannery KC, partner at Mishcon de Reya, on LinkedIn. In a post, he wrote: “Given the prospective male lineage, I suspect that it will be at least a century before any prospect of anyone becoming a QC again.”
Davies added: “Queen Elizabeth II reigned with grace, dignity, patience, quiet determination, steadfastness, empathy and so much more—qualities we should all strive to emulate.”
KCs are appointed by the U.K. monarch, on the advice of the Lord Chancellor who works with advisors on an independent selection panel which receives and considers each application before making recommendations as to appointment.
Meanwhile, Andrew de Lotbinière McDougall KC, a partner in White & Case’s international arbitration practice, said: “It is an honour to play a small part in history to be one of the first KC’s in over 70 years.”
Recalling a royal connection of his own, he added: “My father sat next to Her Majesty at a dinner in Ottawa when I was a young boy and treasured a photo of them together that sat in his home office my whole life.”
In both 2020 and 2021, just five partners from law firms made silk. Noah Rubins KC, head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s international arbitration group in Paris, was appointed in 2020.
Speaking to Law.com International about the Queen’s passing, Rubins said: “It is obviously a historic moment for the U.K. in general, but like the monarchy itself the legal profession is used to transitions. The seamless transition from Queen to King mitigates the natural emotional disruption, and so I suppose it is unsurprising that those of us who took silk with letters of patent from Her Majesty woke up this morning to find our ‘initials’ changed.”
He added the KC would take some getting used to, but said: “The interesting question (to which I’m sure many in London know the answer) is whether and how new letters of patent will come to each KC from Charles III.”