Third time lucky: applying for a judicial appointment

As the saying goes, what is worth doing is worth doing well. If you want to secure a judicial appointment you should sit down and make a plan.
Saida Bello is a black woman with shoulder length straight hair. Behind her is an old red-brick building and rose bushes

This was the advice offered to me when I attended my first Law Society judicial appointments seminar and Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) roadshow in 2012. It proved to be very valuable. Specifically, I was told to research the stages in the JAC selection process and then make a plan to acquire the necessary skills and experience. 

To date, I have made three applications for judicial appointment and been through the process. And, as is usually the case with judicial appointments I think, I was third time lucky.

Stage 1: Planning and preparation

At the 2012 events* I got the opportunity to listen to judges speak about their roles. I stayed until the end among the other enthusiastic delegates who hovered around the judges asking question after question. I did, and they were happy to answer every one.

One of the questions I asked about was how to gain the decision making experience required for judicial posts. They suggested volunteering to be on decision making panels and on boards where you could gain relevant experience.

Once you have decided to pursue an appointment, then your next port of call is to apply for judicial shadowing through the JAC Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme. If meeting the judges can be described as your appetiser, then at this stage the JAC Work Shadowing Scheme is your main course. If there is a time delay in the official scheme you can approach a judge in your local court informally to enquire about shadowing.

Most important of all is visiting the JAC website which clearly explains the application and selection process and has useful case studies of judges in various jurisdictions.

Stage 2:  Apply, stay focused on your goal and continuously develop your skills

Should you apply for a judicial post?

Yes! Apply, apply, apply! I know far too many lawyers who are "thinking" of applying for judicial appointment but have yet to do so. Just do it. You can set up your JAC account with your personal details and education etc. in advance of your application.  This saves time when you eventually apply for a role, which will be subject to a tight deadline of two to three weeks.

How do you acquire the requisite skills and experience for successful selection?

One of the top tips provided by the judges at the judicial appointments seminar was securing experience of decision making and critical thinking skills. To this end I volunteered as a school governor for five years, sat as a Youth Offending Team panel member for nearly two years, sat as a board member of a county court, and sat on the board of the Social Housing Law Association for over three years. It was invaluable experience.

How much time do you need to set aside to prepare?

I would set aside at least two hours a week study time to work on developing your portfolio of competencies. I also participated in the Law Society's 12-month Judicial Mentoring Scheme, which took up two hours a week.

What does the interview involve?

The interview and selection process will not be easy. The follow-up questions will require you to re-think your answers and to clearly explain your reasons under pressure. At one point in my interview I was asked whether I would like to change my answer, which I found very unnerving. I responded in the negative and then, rightly or wrongly, I re-iterated my original answer and explained my reasons. It was definitely a very close call! 

Practical advice for staying on course

Follow your plan: This is the written map you follow until you eventually reach the goal.

Get a mentor: Stay focused on your judicial appointment goal by seeking out a judicial mentor, ideally for a period of six to 12 months. They will inspire you and be a great source of knowledge.

Don't give up: Make as many applications as is necessary for you to achieve your goal. I am proof you can get there if you persevere, and it has been worth every second of hard work.

*these events have been replaced by interview training

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