Support to become a judge
If you’re thinking about becoming a judge, support is available to help you apply, develop any skills you might be missing, and prepare for the selection day process.
Find out if you’re eligible
The Judicial Appointment Commission (JAC) is the independent body that selects candidates for judicial roles in courts and tribunals.
Its ‘Am I ready?’ tests will help you assess whether you’re eligible for a judicial role and if that career would suit you.
Before you apply for a judicial appointment, you may want to:
- build on your judicial skills
- get support from existing solicitor judges
- shadow a judge
- take advantage of any programmes or schemes that are open to you
Follow the Judicial Pathway
The Judicial Pathway will guide your personal and professional development and help you demonstrate the competencies required for judicial roles.
It suggests activities to help you develop the competencies you’ll need, whatever stage of your career you’re at.
Use the Pathway to record your experiences and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned throughout your practising career. Use the best examples to show you meet the requirements.
Join the Solicitor Judges Division
Our Solicitor Judges Division supports solicitors who are interested in a judicial career by providing:
- events and training
- networking opportunities
- access to a community of solicitor judges and aspiring judges
Understanding the role of a judge
The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary has published videos about career paths for:
Pre-Application Judicial Education Programme
The Pre-Application Judicial Education Programme (PAJE) helps lawyers from under-represented groups who are interested in becoming a judge to feel more confident about applying.
It’s aimed at:
- black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) lawyers
- women lawyers
- lawyers with disabilities
- lawyers from a non-litigation background
You can view online resources and then apply to join a discussion group course led by a judge. The course looks at the skills and experience you’ll need to be a judge.
The Judicial Office runs a work shadowing scheme. It’s open to legal professionals with seven years’ post-qualification experience who are thinking about applying for a judicial appointment in the next two years.
If you take part in the scheme, you’ll spend two days shadowing one of the following:
- a district judge (civil, family or magistrates' courts)
- a circuit judge
- a tribunal judge
From March 2022, you can take part in the scheme in person or remotely, depending on your preference and that of the judges.
Observing court hearings
The JAC encourages candidates to:
- observe court hearings
- read the guidance on remote hearings in the Equal Treatment Bench Book
If you wish to observe a Cloud Video Platform (CVP) hearing, contact your local court or tribunal centre. Ask for confirmation of upcoming CVP hearings on the basis that you wish to join as a member of the public.
If the case is not private, the parties will be asked to consent for an observer to join the hearing.
HM Courts and Tribunal Service should give you access to the remote hearing details and PIN.
Judicial Mentoring Scheme
This is aimed at boosting diversity. You can join it if you've taken part in the work shadowing scheme and meet one or more of the following criteria:
- you're a woman
- you come from a BAME background
- you attended state school
- you were the first in your family to go to university
Before you apply for a judicial role, you may need to develop certain skills or get more experience.
To get courtroom experience you can do pro bono work, such as:
- volunteer in witness support or become a trustee with the Citizens Advice Bureau
- volunteer in employment, housing and general litigation cases with the Mary Ward Centre
- represent clients in front of tribunals and learn more about a court environment with the Free Representation Unit
- get advocacy training and then put your skills into practice in front of tribunals through the Communities Empowerment Network
- work in courts helping vulnerable people through the Support through Court
You can volunteer to join decision-making panels such as:
- school exclusion panels
- parking and traffic penalties
- police conduct appeals
- professional bodies’ professional conduct panels
Or you could get involved in decision-making forums, for example:
- residents' associations
- parish councils
- local authorities
Public speaking skills
You can develop your public speaking skills through organisations such as the English Speaking Union.
Our workshops, webinars and video can help you make a strong application.
Preparing your application
In this video, former Law Society president Lucy Scott Moncrieff, JAC selection exercise manager Carol Morgan and district judge Paul Middleton-Roy discuss:
- the range of judicial appointments available
- the selection process
- how to make a successful application
We run training workshops if you want to become a judge. They explain how to show that you meet the competency requirements for judicial roles. The workshops include:
- practical advice on how to complete the application form
- interview practice
To get an idea of the type of questions and topics covered in assessments and qualifying tests, you may want to:
- read JAC feedback and evaluation reports
- read material used for past critical analysis tests, such as Lord Neuberger’s opening remarks for the Singapore panel on judicial ethics (August 2016)
- get to know the Civil Procedure Rules and Equal Treatment Bench Book.
The selection day for judicial appointments involves an interview with two or three people, including a judge. For entry-level posts there will also be a role play exercise.
The JAC has shared some tips for selection day from its guide on preparing for judicial selection exercises.
You can see a few examples below or read the full list in the JAC guide (page 19).
Preparing for role plays or situational questions
You might be given some reading on the day, and/or a week or so in advance.
Make sure you:
- read the material thoroughly
- are ready to refer to key parts on the day
- keep it handy to refer back to
Roles such as High Court judge may involve a lot of complex reading in advance, so leave time in your diary to prepare.
Handling situational questions and role plays
Keep the competencies or skills and abilities in mind as you answer.
For example, the panel will expect you to:
- give a clear decision / judgment with reasons, as evidence of exercising judgement
- refer to specific parts of the pre-reading, as evidence of assimilating and clarifying information
- communicate clearly and show sensitivity to any vulnerable parties, as evidence of working and communicating with others
Choosing examples for interview
The panel wants to hear your specific examples.
Listen to each question, think carefully and choose a relevant example to talk about. For example, if you’re asked about a complex case, choose a situation that really was more difficult than the norm. Avoid low level and routine examples if you can, it’s better to think about a situation that really tested you and where you clearly demonstrated your ability.
Examples where you did something wrong but reflected on it and learned from the experience can be just as evidence-rich as success stories.
Structuring your answers
Avoid lengthy background at the start of an example; one or two sentences is often enough.
The panel is most interested in hearing what you did, how you did it and why you did that. Some candidates find the SOAR structure helpful (talk about the Situation, the Objective, your Action, the Result) but if you use this, focus mainly on the action. Make sure you say “I” not “we”, as the panel needs to know what you personally did.
Becoming a judge – find out more about the process
Preparing for judicial selection exercises – JAC guide
Third time lucky: applying for a judicial appointment – practical advice on persevering with applications
Webinars for solicitor judges
Watch webinars from the Judicial Office on applying for the role of:
- recorder (45 minutes)
- deputy district judge (1 hour 26 minutes)
- district judges for the magistrates court (1 hour 40 minutes)
- deputy High Court judge (50 minutes)
Extra resources for our Solicitor Judges Network
Members of our Solicitor Judges Network can view recordings of the following:
- solicitor judges and higher rights – an introduction for junior lawyers
- practical advice for aspiring solicitor judges
- judicial appointments – an option for in-house lawyers?
- preparing judicial applications: evidencing your competencies
- preparing for judicial applications and selection days
Next steps for solicitor judges
If you're a sitting solicitor judge applying for your next judicial role, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a recording of our webinar on next steps, created in collaboration with the Judicial Office and Judicial Appointments Commission.