To become a judge in the UK is very difficult. Although certain formal qualifications are required, there is no determined career path as in other countries such as the US. Becoming a judge in the UK depends as much on who you know as what you know. This rather incestuous system is something that the UK government is trying to overhaul to ensure the judiciary is more reflective of British society as a whole.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Bar Professional Course
Study for a degree at a reputable university. Many of those who go on to become judges study subjects such as law, politics, English or history. It is also possible to study an unrelated subject and then do a year-long law conversion course.
Take a vocational course. Judges in the UK tend to be picked from the top barristers, so you will need to take the "Bar Professional Course" (BPTC), one year full-time or two years part-time, to stand a chance of making it in the judiciary.
Complete a year in an authorised pupillage training organisation: barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment. During this time trainee barristers shadow professionals to gain further experience. This is also an invaluable time for making contacts. Many trainees are handed down work and promotions as their old tutor progresses through the ranks.
Obtain tenancy in a set of barristers' chambers or find work with an organisation that employs barristers. There are many such organisations and barristers' chambers around the Holborn area of London, for example.
Work as a barrister. To be considered as a judge you have to have a minimum of seven years experience as a barrister or solicitor, although the specifications depending on the type of law you practice vary considerably. Networking is essential throughout this period if you hop to be considered for the judiciary.
Put your name forward for High Court vacancies. The decision is made by the Lord Chancellor who, in recent times, has also been the Secretary of State for Justice, a sitting MP. In reality, the Lord Chancellor will often ask current judges or prominent members of the judiciary for their opinion. If your name is mentioned, you are half-way to becoming a judge.
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