Career choice: District judge
Name: Tan Ikram
Level of PQE: 26
Current position and immediate former position: District judge (Magistrates' Courts), associate judge, HM Court of SBA, Cyprus. Previously, consultant at ABV Solicitors.
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
Truth, I hated maths on the engineering degree I was doing at university. I thought again and reflected on enjoying my time in the public speaking team and debating society at school. I was quite political and it hit me that, the law was the obvious way forward. I could earn a living and change the world by persuading everyone that my argument was right!
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
I became an assistant solicitor at High Street firm, Booth Bennett Solicitors in Slough High Street.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
I could see so much unfairness and I thought I could make things better. There were very few Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) solicitors in those days and Slough was such a diverse place. Going to the Bench was a natural progression from making the argument to hearing and deciding the argument.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
There was so much mystique in those days on how to become a judge and the criteria wasn’t at all clear. There really wasn’t any material out there to support potential candidates. So, I did some teaching and writing, and involved myself in community work so that I could evidence being more than just a lawyer who went to court.
Today, the JAC and the judiciary themselves put on events and publish material on the internet to explain the competencies required in the judicial role. This allows you to self assess whether you really can demonstrate what they are looking for and strengthen applications by filling in the gaps by seeking more experience where there is weakness.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
I started as a parking adjudicator. As the commitment was hourly, the position fitted around my professional commitments and was a gentle introduction to decision making. That allowed me continue in practice with no time out during office hours. In most judicial roles, you will have to secure the support of partners or bosses to ensure they support you in taking days out to sit.
My transition to my full-time role as a judge was easier as I had the support of fellow judges who shared their experiences of dealing with the challenges of my new job.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
I have overcome self doubt. I have put myself forward honestly expecting to be rejected and confounded myself in being appointed and, then, being told that I’m actually doing the job rather well.
How did you find the transition after you made the move?
In some ways, it was lonely. I really enjoyed the social aspects of the ‘robing room’ and meeting other advocates. I enjoyed the human contact with clients. Inevitably, I became more detached once I came to the Bench. I do miss that interaction. I have been fortunate to have the wisdom of senior judges to support me in my new world. I still regularly seek advice.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
The satisfaction of doing my job well, even the occasional thanks and making a real difference in ensuring justice. I like finding solutions and overcoming hurdles. I see so many these days.
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
It all needs planning. In hindsight, it was all a little 'on the hoof' but I confess that my plans have rarely worked out. You have to have self confidence and be prepared to take knock-backs. Maybe I could have been a little more ambitious in my early career.
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Throw away self doubt, everyone has it.
- Research what you need to demonstrate in order to secure that next move and draw up a plan how you are going to do it. Ask someone who is already undertaking the role to see what really matters in the job.
- Do what you enjoy, you'll never be content doing anything else.