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Understanding the Role of a King’s Counsel (KC) in the Legal System

By Maria Hickey on January 3rd, 2024

Aspiring barristers typically set their sights on one day earning the distinguished title of King’s Counsel. The prestigious King’s Counsel designation recognises a barrister’s commanding expertise and excellence in handling complex cases.

But beyond the renown, what does being appointed a KC entail in terms of the legal duties and expectations placed on these senior advocates? For both existing KCs and barristers hoping to attain the status one day, it’s beneficial to understand the pivotal role these legal luminaries play in the justice system.

Key Duties and Privileges

As masters of courtroom advocacy entrusted with the most challenging disputes, typical KC duties and rights include:

Complex Case Lead Counsel

KCs leverage their unmatched litigation skills managing intricate commercial, criminal and judicial review lawsuits for individuals and organisations.

Appellate Specialists

Extensive experience permits KCs to represent clients as lead counsel in appeals brought before the High Court and Supreme Court.

Advisors to The Crown

KCs are often enlisted by the Attorney General to provide counsel on sensitive legal matters involving the national interest.

Arbitration and Mediation

Many KCs choose to leverage their legal acumen as independent arbitrators and mediators, resolving complex civil disagreements outside of court.

Along with higher fees reflecting their seniority, KCs may uniquely keep company with judges donning full regalia in processions and ceremonies. 

The Rigorous Steps to Earning the Title

In order to achieve the KC distinction:

  1. Barristers typically must demonstrate extensive experience in handling advanced cases and exhibit  excellence in written advocacy, oral arguments, cross-examination, evidence evaluation and negotiation.
  2. Each year, they submit an in-depth application detailing experience across intricate cases spanning civil, criminal and specialty courts. Strict criteria for depth of involvement and case complexity apply.
  3. Endorsements help validate broad respect for abilities across the profession.
  4. Final appointment decisions are made by the Lord Chancellor based on recommendations from the independent King’s Counsel Appointments panel. 

The intensive vetting process ensures those honoured with the KC title are consummate professionals at the peak of the legal community.

Mitigating Heightened Risks

However, with greater prominence comes greater scrutiny. The most skilled barristers face bigger targets from potential claims, meaning specialist insurance is crucial. Allegations that performance failed expectations associated with the KC distinction can significantly impact professional standing.

Advanced barrister liability insurance delivers financial protection and expert legal resources to decisively respond to lawsuits or complaints levied against senior counsel:

  • Robust coverage for negligence, privacy breaches, defamation and other risks protects personal and Chambers assets from potentially significant claimant payouts.
  • Top-tier solicitors provide skilled legal defence to protect reputation.
  • Proactive crisis response services help contain and defeat public incidents before they escalate.
  • Free 24/7 legal advice delivers instant support during contentious cases or situations

Protect Your Reputation with Brisco Barrister Insurance

The honour of earning the KC distinction places barristers at the uppermost echelon of legal advocates in the nation. Extensive vetting and rare appointments by the Crown confirm their skill and integrity in managing the most complex trials and appeals. However, along with the privilege of expanded leadership influence comes heightened public scrutiny. 

As subject matter experts protecting barristers, Brisco Business understands the amplified risks successful KCs face. We provide specialist barrister insurance tailored to the complete needs of senior counsel managing high-value claims and prominent clients. Trust us to protect your hard-earned career accomplishments, and contact us today.

Maria Hickey

For more than 20 years, Maria has worked in the insurance sector and has extensive underwriting and customer service expertise. Maria is an experienced Senior Underwriter with a particular specialism for shop, office and surgery related insurance.

All articles by Maria Hickey

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