Newsletter – May 2024

Spotlight on… making Costs Lawyers eligible for judicial roles

Have you ever thought about becoming a judge? It’s an appealing career option for many lawyers. Becoming a judge is an opportunity to apply your legal expertise in different ways, develop new skills and knowledge, and help make a difference to the lives of others. At the moment Costs Lawyers are not eligible to apply for judicial roles. The CLSB is working to change that.

What we are doing
As you may know, eligibility for judicial roles was historically limited to solicitors and barristers. In 2008 and 2013, eligibility for certain judicial roles was extended to chartered legal executives and, in June 2023, expanded further to enable chartered legal executives to become Recorders and Upper Tribunal judges. In 2014, registered patent attorneys and registered trade mark attorneys became eligible to apply for specific roles relating to their expertise.

We’re keen to see the current statutory eligibility requirements for judicial appointment expanded to include Costs Lawyers. Costs Lawyers have deep expertise that would be valuable to the judiciary, not just in specialist roles such as Costs Judges, but across a range of judicial appointments.

Opening up judicial roles would provide new career routes for Costs Lawyers, deepening the profession’s expertise and making a positive contribution to the administration of justice. It would also help to achieve the Ministry of Justice and Judicial Appointments Commission’s objectives of improving judicial diversity.

What has happened so far
We held initial conversations with colleagues from the Ministry of Justice in October 2023. The Ministry of Justice is looking at ways to break down barriers to judicial appointment for lawyers from different branches of the legal profession, and one of its key objectives is to improve judicial diversity. Following those positive discussions, we began gathering evidence to support the case for making Costs Lawyers eligible to apply for judicial roles.

We had anecdotal evidence that Costs Lawyers would be keen to apply for judicial roles if they were eligible to do so, but we needed more robust data to submit to the Ministry of Justice. We therefore ran a survey of the profession to gauge Costs Lawyers’ interest in judicial appointment from 13 December 2023 to 12 January 2024. We’re grateful to everyone who took the time to share their views in the survey.

The survey received 85 responses, with 97.7% of respondents believing Costs Lawyers should be eligible for judicial appointment. Respondents were interested in a wide range of court and tribunal roles, and felt that Costs Lawyers’ depth of advocacy and courtroom experience, and their detailed knowledge of costs law, would make them strong candidates for judicial posts.

Respondents also told us about what sort of support they would like to see for prospective applicants. This included professional networking opportunities (including with current judges); help with the application process and support from existing members of the judiciary – for example, work shadowing or mentoring.

Costs Lawyers also gave their views on potential barriers or obstacles. Barriers identified included academic and social barriers, high levels of competition for judicial roles, and lack of preparation for the application process. We acknowledge that these perceived barriers may represent hurdles to appointment, but we are also confident that many of them can be overcome through open communication about the opportunities available, the application process and support for aspiring applicants.

Using the survey information and other data we have on the profession, we developed an evidence submission that sets out Costs Lawyers’ expertise and transferable skills, diversity data for the profession and the results of the survey. This submission has been sent to colleagues at the Ministry of Justice for consideration and is available here.

At the start of this process, we also held discussions with the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) and shared the draft submission with them for comment. We’re grateful to ACL for their ongoing support of this important work.

What’s next
We look forward to working with colleagues at the Ministry of Justice, Judicial Appointments Commission, ACL and other legal regulators to take this project forward.

As expanding judicial eligibility will require ministerial agreement and legislative changes, there are several steps in the process that need to be completed. Timing will also be affected by availability of Parliamentary time, particularly in the run-up to and immediately after a general election. We will keep Costs Lawyers updated on progress through our regular communications to the profession.

In the meantime, Costs Lawyers may wish to look into the many quasi-judicial roles for which they are already eligible, where their wide range of skills would be of great value. Many non-legal disciplinary bodies and tribunals advertise for chairs and panel members, and these roles can help to build and demonstrate the competencies and skills needed in judicial roles.

If you would like more information about our work in this area, please email [email protected].

Lori Frecker
Director of Policy, CLSB

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