“You don’t need to be put off by the archetype; don’t need to follow in anyone’s footsteps. You can be your own role model.”
These are fitting words with which to open this blog, and I echo them wholeheartedly – though they aren’t my own. They are instead the very sound advice of Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb at an event the CPS held earlier this year ahead of the recent Treasury Counsel Monitoree recruitment campaign. I am sure that anyone attending could not help but be inspired by Dame Bobbie’s own journey to become Treasury Counsel, and by what she had to say about the importance of lawyers and judges being representative of the society they serve.
The work of Treasury Counsel is such that only the brightest and the best advocates can be appointed. They prosecute many of the most serious and complex cases in England and Wales, as well as advising and appearing on behalf of the Law Officers and other government departments. This vital commitment to appoint based purely on merit means that the opportunity is open to anyone who can demonstrate that they have what it takes – regardless of background.
We know that – notwithstanding their undoubted skill and expertise – there is currently a lack of diversity amongst Treasury Counsel. Recruitment into their ranks comes generally from the chambers of existing members of ‘the Room’. This of course makes some sense: indeed, most people looking to progress their careers will seek support from people already operating at that level in undertaking any application process. It would therefore follow that those in chambers where they can seek the advice of a colleague already appointed Treasury Counsel are more likely both to apply, and to have support in developing a successful application.
While understandable, the risks of Treasury Counsel becoming something of a closed shop as a result are clear. First – we know that legal talent does not have a certain background. Incredibly talented and experienced lawyers are drawn from a wide range of identities, and we need a range of experience and specialism within the Room. Treasury Counsel prosecute some of the most serious and challenging cases that come before the courts – and we need them to be a truly representative cadre of the best advocates that England and Wales have to offer.
Second, the role of the advocate in court is to represent the Crown – and, by extension, the public interest. It is reasonable therefore that the public expects the advocates that we instruct to be genuinely representative of the public they serve. The question then, is this: how do we improve diversity within the Room?
Our new Treasury Counsel Pathway is a positive action initiative designed to support increased diversity at the very highest levels of advocacy, by identifying and supporting talented advocates who may consider applying to become Treasury Counsel in the future – particularly those from underrepresented groups, or who may not ordinarily see themselves as Treasury Counsel.
Although the Pathway offers no guarantee of appointment as a Treasury Counsel monitoree, it will – over the course of 12 months – provide participants with a better understanding of the standards and skills required for the role through a range of support and opportunities, including the appointment of a Treasury Counsel mentor for each participant.
We will always appoint Treasury Counsel on merit, of course, but the Pathway reflects a determined effort to demystify the recruitment process and make it more inclusive, so that talented advocates of all backgrounds are supported and able to seize opportunities like this.
The scheme, which has been developed by the CPS, Attorney General’s Office and Treasury Counsel team, is specifically aimed at barristers, or solicitors with higher court advocacy rights, who are not based at the same chambers as current members of the Treasury Counsel team, and do not therefore have ready access to those currently in ‘the Room’.
Importantly, the allocation of places on the Pathway will reflect the communities we serve, with the following underrepresented groups specifically prioritised:
- Those who are female
- Those from a Black, Asian or a minority ethnic background
- Those who are LGBT+
- Those who self-declare as from a lower socio-economic background
- Those with a disability or long-term health condition (12 months +)
Applicants must also have a minimum of seven years’ advocacy experience and be currently operating at CPS Advocate Panel level 3 – or undertaking equivalent work, if a defence practitioner.
You can find out more information about the Treasury Counsel Pathway and how to apply on the CPS website [https://www.cps.gov.uk/cps/treasury-counsel]. We will also be running a launch event on Monday 4 October, via MS Teams, which I would encourage anyone with an interest to attend. To book your place, please contact Treasury.Counsel.Recruitment@cps.gov.uk.
So even if you have never considered applying, or never considered that you would be accepted as Treasury Counsel, I urge you to take some time to read through what the Pathway has to offer, and to think about applying. I will conclude by echoing Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb once again: you don’t need to be put off by the archetype, because you can be your own role model. Together we can deliver on the commitment that those who prosecute – at every level – reflect the communities we serve.
Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions.