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Become a judge

If you’re thinking about becoming a judge, there are several routes you can take.

You’ll need a minimum of five or seven years’ post-qualification experience to become a judge.

Judicial roles

There are several routes to become a judge:

You can:

  • work as a full-time salaried judge
  • work as a part-time salaried judge
  • work on a fee-paid basis while continuing in practice. A fee-paid basis is an agreed payment for the work, regardless of the time it takes.

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) selects candidates for judicial roles in courts and tribunals.

The JAC advertises vacancies on its website. You can also sign up for its e-newsletter Judging Your Future.

Skills and qualifications

You’ll need:

  • a minimum of five or seven years’ post-qualification experience, depending on which role you apply for
  • to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country
  • to be below the age of 70, which is the statutory retirement age for all judges

The JAC will also look for evidence of:

  • intellectual ability
  • the ability to be fair and even-handed
  • an air of authority
  • good communication skills

You do not need to:

  • have advocacy experience
  • be authorised to exercise higher rights of audience
  • be a litigation specialist
  • be working – many solicitors taking a career break may be eligible
  • be in private practice – though some restrictions apply to the types of cases government and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers sitting in a fee-paid capacity can hear

Find out more on the JAC website about the skills and qualifications you’ll need.

The Association of Women Solicitors London runs an annual course for solicitors wanting to return to practice after a career break, or who have recently gone back to work. It includes information about judicial appointments. For more details contact the AWS London.

How to apply

The JAC encourages solicitors from a wide variety of backgrounds to apply.

You can apply online through the JAC website. The application happens in stages.

First, you’ll need to provide an application letter and references. You and your referees must give evidence of the qualities and abilities required for the role you’re applying for.

You may be asked to do a written test for some roles. In the test you’ll need to:

  • analyse case studies
  • identify issues
  • apply the law (which, in some cases, may be a hypothetical statute)

There’s no pass mark to aim for. The JAC decides how many people will go through to each stage of the process and the pass mark is based on that number.

If you’re shortlisted, you’ll be invited to attend a selection day. This involves an interview with two or three people, including a judge. There will be a role play exercise for entry-level posts.

JAC guidance on how to apply

JAC guidance on references/independent assessments

Book one of our judiciary interview training for solicitors sessions

Watch our selection process role play videos

If you have any specific questions about applying for a judicial appointment, email the JAC.

What happens next

The selection day panel members will:

  • look at what you submitted
  • consider your performance
  • make an initial recommendation to the commissioners

The JAC commissioners run the appointments process. They’ll either accept or challenge the panel members’ suggestions and then make final recommendations.

Once the lord chancellor accepts the commissioners’ recommendations, the JAC will contact you to let you know if you’ve been recommended for the post you applied for.

If you succeed

The Ministry of Justice will contact you to give you a starting date. There may be a delay before the post becomes available and your Judicial College training can begin.

If you do not succeed

You can apply again in future. Ask for feedback to help you make a stronger application next time.

Resources

Find out about the support available if you want to become a judge

Becoming a High Court judge with The Honourable Mr Justice Murray – podcast offering advice about a judicial career

Become a circuit judge for enhanced job satisfaction

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary gives examples of days in the life of judicial office holders

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