How to become a judge

  • Last updated 09-Feb-2018 22:55:09
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

Right, first things first, there are several different types of court where judges sit.

Magistrates’ courts, tribunals, Crown court, county court, High Court of Justice, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are the main types of court in England and Wales.

The basic requirements of being a judge:

Understandably, judges have to be citizens of the UK, Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country and should also be able to offer a ‘reasonable length of service’, which is usually at least five years.

In practice, this means you must have a relevant legal qualification for five years, this being a undergraduate LLB, a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Then you should get yourself some experience, firstly a vacation scheme or mini pupillage, and then a training contract or pupillage.

What specific skills does a judge need?

It’s not a prerequisite that you have litigation experience. Of course, litigators will have a working knowledge of court, but the skills required are possessed by all lawyers.

Understandably, good listening and communication skills are required, as is the ability to assimilate large amounts of information.

Again, it’s obvious, but judges should be able to make evidence based decisions.

How do I apply to be a judge?

It’s quite common for solicitors or barristers to apply to be a part-time judge initially, in order to build up expertise.

Part-time judges are officially referred to as fee-paid positions and these judges carry out the same responsibilities as full-time judges but may deal with less complex cases. 

They’re paid according to number of sittings or days – usually around 15 days a year. If a lawyer decides to become a full-time judge, they are not able to return to legal practice.

How are judges chosen?

All judges have to be appointed, and appointments are carried out by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), an independent body that recommends candidates for judicial office.

The JAC was set up in order to maintain and strengthen judicial independence by taking the Lord Chancellor's responsibility for selecting candidates and by making the appointments process clearer and more accountable.

Many judges sit on tribunals, of which there are more than 60, which can cover employment, immigration and other such matters.

The role of the judge:

Judges should ensure that the tribunal or court works as a team and the hearing is fair. Before a case, the judge should lead a preview and agree a line of questioning.

During the hearing, the judge needs to make sure that questioning is appropriate and all issues are covered. After the case the judge must ensure any decision is supported by evidence.

Sound like your cup of tea? Well, you can become a judge sooner in your career than you think, but becoming a barrister, solicitor or legal executive first is necessary. 

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