Things to consider on the path to a Judicial Career

How do I start?

The Bar Council recommends three steps which really are essential:

Talk to judges about what it is like to be on the Bench; it is quite a different perspective; the Bar Council may be able to arrange for your to meet with a judge if that would be helfpul

Consider marshalling opportunities.

Look at the JAC website - in particular the 'Before you apply' section 

Review your experience and work out how to fill gaps

It is important to note that the JAC will usually expect candidates for salaried appointments to have previous judicial experience.

The eligibility criterion for judicial experience can vary depending on the role; see below for recent example on the CJ exercise

How do I know if I have the right kind of experience?

You don't have to be a QC but you do need relevant experience.

There is a difference between the experience necessary to demonstrate possession of the competencies for appointment as a QC and the experience necessary to demonstrate possession of the competencies necessary a judicial career. 

The Bar Council advises you to look carefully at the competency criteria by which an application will be tested.

You do not need experience in the particular area of law which you are applying to sit in. Many civil practitioners successfully apply to be criminal Recorders, and criminal practitioners apply to Tribunal positions.

In due course you will have to show that you have relevant experience. However, the examples you give to demonstrate possession of the required competencies do not have to come from court-based experiences.

So, when considering whether you have the requisite experience be prepared to think outside the box.  For instance, the time and experience you may have spent working on a committee could be of assistance in helping you to demonstrate an ability to work with others.

If when you review your skills you find you are lacking evidence of a competency, you will need to work on getting it. This could be by joining a committee, taking on the leadership of a team or other work where you have to exercise a significant responsibility. 

How can I understand the application process better?


It is really important to look at the JAC website particularly The selection process; and How to apply.

Where can I find appropriate mentoring to help me perform well in the JAC's 'competency-led' test and interview process?

It is a very good idea to consider a mentoring scheme but do make sure your mentor is familiar with the current JAC application process.

Many  Specialist Bar Associations and the Inns run such schemes, as does the Bar Council  and some circuits (for instance the Western Circuit Women's Forum).

The Judicial Office also operates a scheme. However this  scheme is targeted particularly at female and BAME lawyers, and lawyers who attended non-fee paying state schools and those who are amongst the first generation in their family to attend university.

There are also consultancies that offer coaching and mentoring to support those making an application - though this can be an expensive option.

Is there any more I can do to get prepared?

Yes there is.

Working with other members of the Judicial Diversity Forum, the Bar Council has prepared a syllabus of key points to be clear about before application. 

This is called the Pre-Application Judicial Education (PAJE) programme and it is explained further below.  While the driver for developing this programme was to support change for a more inclusive judiciary, the key contents of the programme have been designed to outline what every applicant should know and accessing these is open to all. 

Senior members of the profession have identified the key skills and knowledge required to become a judge. 

See our judgecraft syllabus created to help you consider and/or prepare for a career as a judge.

"Working as a judge requires a different perspective to that of a barrister. Of course, like barristers, judges never stop learning about their job, but there is much they can do in preparation for it. The PAJE programme and this guide has been designed with this in mind. It aims to help applicants start by discussing "judgecraft", the judicial framework, and judicial ethics. It will help them to know how to develop resilience, and how to take a proper approach to diversity. These are all key skills for judges and every lawyer seeking judicial appointment needs to start acquiring them. Now there is an excellent resource to make that start."

Robin Allen QC - Chair of the Bar's Equality and Diversity and Social Mobility Committee

Click here for more information on the Pre-Application Judicial Education programme.