Government to restore Queen’s Counsel

  • Christopher Finlayson

The government has responded to concerns from the legal profession and will restore the title of Queen's Counsel to recognise outstanding members of the independent bar, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson announced today.

Legislation will be introduced later this year amending the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act. The office of Senior Counsel, created by the previous government to replace Queen's Counsel in 2008 and which was open to lawyers in firms as well as barristers, will be disestablished.

Eligibility to be appointed as Queen's Counsel will be restricted in most cases to barristers sole, rather than lawyers in partnerships or firms.

"The title Queen's Counsel is instantly recognised as providing a certain standard of legal advice both among the New Zealand public and internationally," said Mr Finlayson.

"However, the government is taking these steps to protect the essential independence of the inner bar," said Mr Finlayson. "The looser rules for eligibility as Senior Council introduced by the previous government threatened to dilute the independence of our most senior advocates."

"Queen's Counsel should be able to advise and represent both law firms and clients who engage them fearlessly and independently, without the potential conflicts and pressures of working in a partnership or incorporated firm."

"There will be provision to appoint lawyers in firms as Queen's Counsel where that recognises exceptional legal practice," Mr Finlayson said. "This is consistent with the established practice of occasionally appointing exceptional lawyers in government and parliamentary counsel as Queen's Counsel, although they are not members of the independent bar." 

The seven Senior Counsel, who were appointed last year, will have the option of adopting the title of Queen's Counsel or remaining Senior Counsel.