Heather Baucher offers advice on how to overcome the steep learning curve when taking on a judicial role.
Working as a judicial recorder
I've been a recorder in criminal law for more than three years and I love the work. It’s very challenging and requires my total commitment.
I have to deal with a broad range of mostly vulnerable defendants as well as witnesses and jurors.
It’s up to me to make sure that the jurors know what's happening and understand the arguments put forward by counsel, so I must fully engage with them as the trial progresses.
Becoming a judicial recorder
I’m a solicitor working for a large and successful law company, so my main career is also a major commitment.
I applied for the position of recorder because I’m successful in my company, a senior partner at the top of my tree, and I wanted to find a new challenge, something to stretch me.
In a number of respects it’s been harder for me as a solicitor to become a recorder than it should normally be for a barrister, not least because doing the work costs me money. My firm receives less for my work as recorder than I would normally bill as a solicitor in the same time.
The challenges of becoming a judicial recorder
My field at work is civil law, so I had a vertical learning curve at the outset to gain an understanding not only of criminal law but also of court procedure.
Barristers have the advantage of spending considerable time in court, and those working in criminal law are even further ahead.
Even before starting on the induction training, I did a correspondence course in criminal law and I continue to take the major criminal law journals and read a great deal.
Unlike barristers, I do not have colleagues at work with whom I can bounce ideas. That said, the other judges at the crown court are extremely helpful if ever I need any guidance.
The benefits of being a judicial recorder
It’s a privilege to work as a recorder. You've got to accept that you need to put in a lot of hard work and you have to be totally committed. You must also plan your time well and organise your sittings in advance.
But there isn't a single aspect of the day's work that is not rewarding. I think it complements my main work as a solicitor and makes me a better lawyer.