Archive for June 4th, 2009

GuidoFawkes reports that there were cheers in dealing rooms throughout the City today at the rumour that Brown had resigned… the rumours were false and Downing Street had to put out a statement that the Prime Minister was ‘getting on with the job’.  Cabinet shuffle coming… will anyone want to be in it?.. and how long can Brown last? Friday?  Sunday night / Monday morning?

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“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
Albert Einstein

The Law Society Gazette has an interesting article in the edition today “Inherent prejudice in judicial selection”

I quote from the opening to the article: Official research published today reveals a ‘widespread and underlying perception’ of ‘inherent prejudice’ in the judicial application process and suggests that solicitors still see the bench as a career for ‘other people’. The study, sponsored by the Judicial Appointments Commission, surveyed barristers and solicitors eligible for appointment. Of the 2,182 respondents, more than half (55%) said there is prejudice in the selection process, and a quarter said that the process is unfair. Only 51% felt judges are selected purely on merit.”

In a recent issue of the Law Society Gazette Lord Judge LCJ welcomed more applications from solicitors to the higher judiciary but made the perfectly reasonable point that often firms are not prepared to release experienced lawyers for the time necessary to undertake training and to fulfill their obligations to sit part-time.

It is perfectly true that the judiciary has been a natural career progression for many barristers;  but the days of the tap on the shoulder and the mysterious selection processes of times past have gone,  to be replaced by a Judicial Appointments Commission and a more open and transparent process.

Talking to solicitors and barristers about the difficulties facing solicitors when it comes to selection for the bench it is apparent that a lack of experience in the rules and procedures of court, evidence and a lack of experience in advocacy will be a hurdle to overcome for solicitors who do not practice routinely in the courts or as solicitor-advocates in the higher courts.

It would appear also, that not all lawyers are happy to take the ‘vow of poverty’ and put themselves forward for selection to the Bench. Judicial earnings are, perhaps, modest when seen in the context of fees earned by many City and commercial firm solicitors and many in practice at the Bar.  Men and women are having families later in life than in earlier times.  School fees and other costs have to be paid for those who want their children to be educated privately.  A career in the judiciary is, perhaps for some, not an attractive or realistic proposition.  I remember speaking to a High Court judge many years ago over dinner and he told me that the Bench is not for everyone.  Some barristers, he told me, are unsuited by temperament to sitting in a judicial capacity.  He was not being critical;  merely stating it as a phenomenon and that some of the very best talent, therefore, was lost to the judiciary by choice of those who preferred to remain in practice at the Bar or undertake other work later in life.

Sir Hugh Laddie, of course, went to the Bench, resigned later and worked for a firm of solicitors.  A Times report states: When Laddie announced his intention to resign from the bench in 2005, it came as a shock to the judicial system. Eyebrows were raised, particularly since he was sure to have been appointed to the Court of Appeal, had he stayed. But he chose freedom over promotion and found refuge as a consultant in a firm of solicitors founded by an old friend. He was active there, giving expert evidence, lecturing around the world and advising on numerous cases.”

Some say that judicial appointment lower down the pecking order at district judge, tribunal chairman or even circuit judge level is seen as a bolt hole for a pension by many lawyers.  I don’t know if this is the case.  I can’t imagine that it is – for while there may well be some who are just not up to it at that level,  it cannot be a widespread or serious  problem in terms of quality because in the modern era of press inquisitiveness and new media, we would have heard about it.

Reading the article in the Gazette, mindful of the encouragement of the Chief Justice himself recently, it seems to me that solicitors will be welcomed by the Judicial Appointments Commission provided they fulfil the criteria and that no longer will the judiciary be the exclusive preserve of the Bar.  It seems to my academic eye that charges of inherent prejudice, if prejudice still exists, can be allayed by positive action by solicitors in putting themselves forward in competition with barristers for appointment.

I rather suspect that for the higher appointments, those best qualified from the solicitors side of the profession will continue with their lucrative and rewarding careers as partners and that judicial office holds little attraction or charm.  Many City partners retire at 55 and the last thing on their minds at that age when they have enough dosh – I am advised – is sitting in a dusty court room listening to lawyers.  Some of these ‘high flying’  lawyers are on the golf courses, on their yachts or finding themselves in far flung lands, possibly even riding a Harley-Davidson and spending more time with their inner selves!  Others who are fascinated by law will continue to practice law in one form or another, possibly even as a judge,  well into their seventies – and long may that be the case.

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4th June: News up on Insite Law

4th June: News up on Insite Law

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