Your chance to become a recorder in 2017
Solicitors have a wealth of talent to offer and bring many skills that can be a sound basis for judicial work, writes Lord Justice Burnett
The Judicial Appointments Commission will launch a recorder competition on 1 February 2017. The brief agreed by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice requires the JAC to find the 100 best recorders, without regard to their current jurisdictional experience, to fill the need of around 70 criminal and 30 family judges.
The roles are open to solicitors and barristers with seven years’ post-qualification experience. While the judiciary has traditionally been seen as a career progression for barristers, we are keen to encourage more solicitors to apply.
Solicitors have a wealth of talent to offer and bring many skills that can be a sound basis for judicial work, such as advocacy, negotiating, analytic, and communication skills. The part-time nature of the recorder position means it can be combined with other legal commitments. Our solicitor judges have reported back to us that they find the work hugely rewarding.
The recorder role is often a first step to more senior judicial positions. Candidates are not expected to have judicial experience and those who are appointed will receive all the training they need. Applicants without court experience are advised to prepare ahead of the exercise by shadowing a judge or visiting a court’s public gallery.
Details of the selection process are available on the JAC website. There is also guidance on what to consider before applying, including a test for candidates to assess whether they are ready for judicial work (visit jac.judiciary.gov.uk/am-i-ready-tools for more information).
To ensure we can attract applications from the widest backgrounds, the JAC has designed the process for this selection exercise so that applicants will not have to be a specialist family or criminal practitioner, or study the detail of a new jurisdiction, to be ready to apply.
As with all judicial appointments, applications are encouraged from those groups currently under-represented in the judiciary: solicitors, women, ethnic minority, and disabled applicants.
We expect a large number of applicants. The 2015 competition attracted nearly 1,250. In 2017 the process will have four stages and only the most meritorious will progress from one stage to the next:
An online multiple-choice test designed to test situational judgement and critical analysis. About 60 per cent of candidates will proceed to stage two;
An online scenario test that will be marked by a panel. It is designed to invite written narrative answers;
A telephone assessment that will involve analysing a text and answering questions about it. Only those selected for telephone assessment will be asked to complete the self-assessment and provide details of people who can provide independent assessments (references). The self-assessment will be considered alongside the telephone assessment; and
An interview and role-play. Independent assessments will be considered at this stage.
The tests have been devised and extensively road-tested by practitioners and judges from different jurisdictions and backgrounds, taking expert advice, to check that they select fairly on merit. We recognise there were technical IT problems that frustrated some candidates in 2015 and we are as confident as we can be that they have since been ironed out.
We have not been asked to select candidates for specific geographic locations. We have been asked to recommend for appointment the best potential judges – it is as simple as that. Then it will be for the Lord Chief Justice to deploy them.
I started my judicial life as a criminal recorder but was not a criminal practitioner. The pre-JAC appointment system involved filling out an application form and being interviewed. What happens now is more sophisticated but really only a development of what has long gone before. Being a part-time judge is stimulating, worthwhile, and can be enormous fun. If you think you have what it takes, have a go.