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Applying for a judicial role

A variety of entry level judicial roles are available to aspiring judges, including positions as a deputy district judge, a recorder in the courts, or a tribunal judge.

Judges can sit on a fee-paid basis while continuing in practice, or work as a full or part-time salaried judge. 

Our Judicial Pathway supports solicitors in developing their skills, preparing for and applying for a judicial role.

Preparing for application

 The Law Society runs training workshops for solicitors which focus on competency criteria, navigating the selection process and how to complete the application form.

Book now

Law Society webinar on competency-based selection - Part 1 and Part 2

 The Judicial Office runs a work shadowing scheme for legal professionals with seven years’ PQE who are considering applying for a judicial appointment in the next two years. Candidates will spend two days shadowing a high court, district, circuit or tribunal judge.

The Judicial Mentoring Scheme is open to those who have participated in the work shadowing scheme. 

It is aimed at improving diversity and is open to women, applications from a BAME background and lawyers who attended a state school or were the first generation in their family to attend university.

The Judicial Appointments Commission’s ‘Am I ready?’ tests will help you assess your eligibility and suitability for a judicial career.

Developing your skills

To help you prepare to apply for a judicial role, you can seek pro bono opportunities to gain courtroom experience.

You can also volunteer to join decision-making panels such as school exclusion panels, parking and traffic penalties, police conduct appeals, and professional conduct panels of professional bodies.

You can become involved in decision-making forums such as residents’ associations, parish councils and local authorities. 

Public speaking skills can be developed through organisations such as the English Speaking Union.

Eligibility

You will need:

  • A minimum of five or seven years’ post-qualification experience, depending on the requirements of the post
  • Citizenship of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country

Candidates must be below the statutory retirement age of 70 for all judges.

The application process

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is the independent body that selects candidates for judicial office in courts and tribunals. 

The JAC looks for evidence of intellectual ability, the ability to be fair and even-handed, an air of authority, and advanced communications skills. 

Applications from solicitors from a wide variety of backgrounds are encouraged. There is no pass mark – the cut-off point for the shortlist will be determined by the number of posts selected for. Previously unsuccessful applicants are able to reapply.

Application stages

1. The application letter and references

Generally, candidates will apply online via the JAC website. You and your referees must give evidence of the required qualities and abilities.

JAC guidance on how to apply

JAC guidance on references/independent assessments

2. Shortlisting

Candidates are usually shortlisted on the basis of performance in a written test. The test will require you to analyse case studies, identify issues and apply the law which, in some cases, may be a hypothetical statute.

3. Selection day

The selection day involves an interview with two or three people, including a judge. There will be a roleplay exercise for entry level posts.
Watch our selection process roleplay videos

What happens next?

 Panel members examine submitted materials and performances and commissioners make final recommendations. Once these have been accepted by the lord chancellor, the JAC informs candidates whether or not they have been recommended for the post.

If you have been successful, the Ministry of Justice will contact you with a starting date. There may be a delay before the post becomes available and your Judicial Studies Board training can begin.

If your application was not successful you can request feedback which will help you consider how to make a stronger application in future.

JAC feedback reports

Judicial Pathway

The Judicial Pathway is the Law Society’s toolkit for solicitors at any career stage, to help prepare for a successful application for judicial appointment. 

It is designed to guide your personal and professional development and help you demonstrate the competencies you will need for securing a judicial role.

The pathway covers six stages of a solicitor's career, from students to senior partners. 

It allows you to identify your career stage and suggests activities that will help you develop the relevant competencies. 

We suggest that you record your experiences, lessons and reflections throughout your practising career, and use your best examples to show that you have the necessary competencies at the level required.

Download the Judicial Pathway (PDF 66kb)

Case studies

The following examples provide case studies of solicitors who have been appointed to the Bench: