Attorney-General David Parker has announced that there will be an appointment round for Queen's Counsel in 2019.
However, he says it is expected there will be fewer successful applicants than in previous years.
Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann and Mr Parker have issued Guidelines for Candidates this year after consulting with the New Zealand Law Society and the New Zealand Bar Association.
The guidelines now include the new criterion of a commitment to improving access to justice.
"In recommending barristers to take silk I want to have a good understanding of each applicant's personal contribution to improving access to justice for those who need it. It will be an important factor in my decisions," Mr Parker says.
He says he expects fewer successful applicants than in recent years.
"There are over 100 practising QCs. I want to make sure we reserve the rank for those who are at the very top of their game, not just in the quality of their legal work but also in their relationships with others, and in their contribution to the profession.
"I also want to ensure the rank in New Zealand reflects the diversity of our profession, both regionally and in their practice areas."
The 2019 round
The Guidelines and an application form will be available on the Crown Law Office website.
Applications open on 1 August 2019 and must be sent to Solicitor-General Una Jagose QC no later than 30 August 2019. Ms Jagose will consult with the New Zealand Law Society and the New Zealand Bar Association regarding the candidates.
It is expected that appointments will be made in November 2019.
What will "fewer" successful applicants look like?
Since the honour was established in New Zealand in 1907 (with King's Counsel appointed), just 317 people have been appointed Queen's or King's Counsel.
At 1 August 2019, 131 Queen's Counsel held practising certicates (28 of whom are women).
Since 2002, 120 Queen's Counsel have been appointed - over one-third of all appointments. There was an appointment gap between 2009 and 2013 (although Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson and Solicitor-General Michael Heron were non-round appointments in 2012). The 120 have been appointed from a total of 1165 applicants - a "success rate" of 10.3%. The average time in practice before appointment since 1980 is 26.7 years.
Queen's Counsel applications and appointments since 2002