Initially I worked for Beachcrofts, before joining Ashfords eight years ago. I am now an Associate at the Exeter office of Ashfords LLP, specialising in personal injury and have over 20 years’ experience in all aspects of injury, insurance and liability claims.
In 2017, I took part in CILEx’s Judicial Development Programme, aimed at providing members with information, support, training, mentoring and encouragement when preparing to make their application for a judicial appointment. I wasn’t aware that Chartered Legal Executives could apply to the judiciary until I heard about CILEx’s training programme. Not being one to shy away from a challenge and after a lot of thought and research, I was confident that I would be a strong candidate!
The support from CILEx meant I benefited from expert advice on how to complete competency-based applications and mentoring from CILEx-qualified District Judge Stephen Nicholls. This support was invaluable in giving me the knowledge and confidence to go ahead.
I am now the first female Chartered Legal Executive to be appointed to the Judiciary, holding the position of a fee-paid Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, assigned to the Social Entitlement Chamber.
I was very excited to be appointed as a Judge, it is a real honour. The application process is tough but I demonstrated that with the right skills and expertise it is achievable.
I hope that my appointment will encourage more Chartered Legal Executives, and women, to apply for judicial office.
Deputy District Judge, Partner and Chartered Legal Executive
Horwich Farrelly Solicitors
"CILEx has had a very successful few years with opportunities for partnership, judicial office and running your own business."
I am presently a Partner at Horwich Farrelly Solicitors primarily engaged in occupational disease, employers' and public liability claims on behalf of insurers.
I first started in the law back in 1980 directly from 6th Form college which may be unusual now but it was a fairly typical path at that time. There has in many ways been a return to this level of entry to the profession.
The market is contracting and with training contracts now so difficult to find, CILEx represents a genuine alternative route into the profession. At Horwich Farrelly we operate a sizable apprentice scheme with a view to developing careers within the firm.
I was appointed as a Deputy District Judge on the South Eastern Circuit in 2013.
I would encourage anyone interested in judicial appointment to apply, however, the process is one which requires some thought and preparation even before the selection exercise is launched. The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) website has a lot of useful information as do a variety of JAC events around the country. It may also be worthwhile arranging to sit with a full time judge for the day.
Additionally please do not have an expectation to be appointed on first application, this is unusual. I was appointed on second attempt. Because selection exercises do not arise every year appointment has to be seen as something of a long game.
The application form itself is a critical document which requires careful thought, it may that important competencies are not experienced in our work but may arise in other aspects of our lives. If relevant then it is quite in order as I did to draw on other relevant experiences. The written exam again is quite a challenge but it is intended not to favour particular experience in one area of specialism.
One mistake I did make was not to tell my firm that I was applying for appointment this resulted in some hurried negotiations rather late in the day. This is a difficult area but it is well worth thinking about and planning for.
I presently sit between 30 and 40 days a year, being based in Southampton I tend to travel to courts as diverse as Brighton, Guildford, Staines, Dartford, Reading and Horsham.
To anyone with an interest I would encourage them to apply, the Judicial role is very different to the work we do in the office although I am sure my advocacy skills have much improved.
Deputy District Judge and Consultant
I qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives in 1981, but have been employed in the legal profession since 1969, originally as an outside clerk.
Qualifying as a Family Mediator in 1996, I became one of the first Legal Executives to be appointed to the Law Society’s Family Law Panel. I am also an accredited Civil and Commercial Mediator.
I was appointed as a Deputy District Judge in August 2010 and I am authorised to hear civil, family and private law cases and I am now authorised to hear Chancery cases in the specialist lists at the Central London County Court.
I left school at 16 with a few O levels and got my first job in law as an outside clerk working with Judge & Priestley in Bromley in 1969, I think it was.
Working my way up, my brother introduced me to the Institute of Legal Executives. I enrolled and studied for my exams by means of correspondence courses (now called distant learning) and eventually I qualified as a Fellow of the Institute.
At my age, 66 next birthday, I am no longer employed full-time in the profession. I am a Consultant to a local firm of Solicitors that I helped start some years ago. This means I can sit pretty much as often as I am required.
The ever increasing Court workloads with the prevalence of litigants in person and the absence of Legal Aid means that I am frequently offered the chance to sit as a Deputy. This current financial year, for example, I am pre-booked to sit mostly at Canterbury County Court for about 100 days.
I enjoy sitting as a Deputy. It is totally different from fee earning, but I recognise it is not for everyone. You have to be your own man (all references to the male gender include the female gender and vice versa) and sometimes it can be a rather solitary job which is a consideration for all those of you who are thinking of applying for an appointment. However I have children and grandchildren and so the odd bit of solitary is not entirely unwelcome!
If you think you have got what it takes, I advise you to apply as soon as the opportunity arises.
The selection of Deputy District Judges is an interesting process but one that you have to take seriously. No half-hearted attempt will succeed. I think I spent a week, at least, completing the application form. This is a document that requires careful completion given the criteria. JAC website is a mine of information in this regard.
Just a word about the Institute, the Officers and the Members of the Institute, past and present. The Institute has performed miracles in getting the recognition that the Institute and its Members deserve, but there is still prejudice out there. For example I still cannot join my local Law Society – they will not have me because I am not qualified!!
Members of the Institute have taken the opportunities provided by the Institute in the way of education and personal advancement and so the Bar and my Judicial colleagues have a high regard for the Chartered Legal Executive as a result.
Let no-one think however that the Legal Executive route into the profession is an easy option. It is the opposite. I take my hat off to our Members, who in many cases have worked, brought up children and studied at the same time to attain the qualification of Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executive.
Well done to you all, that cannot have been easy.
Stephen Nichols is a District Judge (Civil) appointed to the South Eastern Circuit. He was previously a Deputy District Judge while working in private practice. He began his career as a CILEx Fellow before becoming a solicitor.
Judicial appointment. What happened next?
Stephen updates us on how he’s getting on in his role.
“It has been 18 months since I was appointed. As in any busy occupation, the time has seemed to pass by quickly. I have been exposed to nearly all areas of law. As a solicitor, one generally specialises. I was no different. It has been a very steep learning curve and there is something new to be learned every day. There is great satisfaction in assisting people to resolve their disputes, which is a large part of the work, particularly in family law. I have found added confidence, having been in post for more than a year. The camaraderie in the District Bench is second to none. The work is interesting and, most importantly from a judge’s point of view, enjoyable.”
Stephen Nichols case study. We first spoke to him just after his appointment as District Judge. We asked about his career path and how he used his prior experience of the selection process second time round.
“When I began my career as a CILEx Fellow I didn’t for one moment think I might one day become a District Judge. When working as a solicitor, I applied to become a Deputy District Judge in order to find out more about the process and was surprised and delighted to be successful. I sat initially once a week. It was possible to do this because I was the owner of my own firm and I had very good quality staff that I could rely on working for me.
“When I moved to a new firm I reduced the sitting frequency to once a month. There is a tension between a busy practice and sitting as a judge but my firm welcomed the judicial point of view which I was able to bring in. As a result of this extra dimension the work my department prepared focused on what I considered a judge is expecting to see. To be fair, as a busy practitioner you do have to put yourself out and make time to cover everything. But that is all part of being ambitious. “When I was appointed a deputy judge in 2001 the application process was very different – it was tough but now the JAC has refined the process to a point where in my view it is absolutely fit for purpose. The focus now is on looking for specific qualities in candidates who are also expected to be able to demonstrate appropriate abilities and relevant experience.
“This was not my first application for a full-time appointment. I learned from previous experience and applied this cumulative knowledge together with the helpful interview feedback given by the JAC. What is needed, in both the application form and at the interview, are specific examples of the particular qualities and abilities required for the post, so my approach was to concentrate on getting that right. If you generalise you are not giving any real indication of how good you are at what you are applying for. I was glad to be able to do the qualifying test online. I took the test from the comfort of my own office early in the morning. There is a strict time limit and you have to work swiftly. All aspects of civil law and procedure are covered.
“The JAC front of house staff were especially helpful on the selection day. They were careful to explain very clearly what would happen. My experience was that, at interview, one’s knowledge of law was presumed to a great extent. My advice to other candidates would be to concentrate more on what might be asked by the lay panel member. They look at a really diverse selection of areas and here I drew upon my experience as an advisor at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau where I’ve met and mixed with a diverse range of cultures.
“The interview also involved some situational questioning which really added an element of realism. It focuses the mind upon what you would be doing day to day as a District Judge. The answers that you provide also give the panel food for thought for further questioning.
“I would certainly recommend this career path to any CILEx Fellow. I found that taking this route gave me a very good practical grounding. I was able to study and gain work experience at the same time. There is a real advantage to doing it this way, and of course, today CILEx Fellows can apply for a number of judicial roles in courts and tribunals.”
Case study taken from JAC website
Chairman of Police Appeals Tribunal
Damien Moore is a fee-paid Chairman of the Police Appeals Tribunal. He began his career as a solicitor’s clerk aged 19, qualifying as an ILEx Fellow in 2001. He is now a Solicitor-Advocate and partner at Fosters Solicitors.
Judicial appointment. What happened next?
What has happened to Damien since he took on his judicial role? We got in touch to find out how he was enjoying it and what he’s learned since his appointment.
“I am thoroughly enjoying my new position and the challenges which it brings. The first moment I was addressed as “Sir” was a sobering experience and brought home the reality of the appointment. The role really compliments my career at Fosters who have been incredibly supportive. Some of my counterparts have now seen my case study on the JAC website and have asked me about my experience of the process. I have encouraged these people to push forward with their own applications in the knowledge of the fairness of the selection process. I have been able to provide them with guidance and support.
“I now have 12 months under my belt as a Tribunal Chairman which has given me time to reflect on the selection process. I believe that the JAC really does allow any applicant from any background to have a fair chance of being selected for judicial office should that person possess the correct qualities. It is an incredibly transparent process which allows you to measure yourself against other candidates. Whilst I am not a barrister or a QC I felt that as an experienced solicitor-advocate, formerly a legal executive and having worked in the legal profession since the age of 19 I had many qualities and experiences which I could put forward to support my application. The fact I was appointed underlines the JAC’s fair and upright approach.
“I feel strongly that the JAC should be proud of everything it has achieved over the last 10 years and the real and tangible advancement it has made in the diversity of judicial appointments. I am sure the JAC will continue to move forward positively in the next decade and beyond”.
Damien Moore case study. We spoke to him just after his appointment. We asked about his career path and his experience of the selection process.
“It’s incredible that in the space of 19 years I’ve gone from being the boy who makes the tea, right to the top. It is an achievement and I do feel proud of that. My career has always been about ‘finding the next challenge’. I’ve always wanted to go one step higher and I feel I have achieved that, which is extremely rewarding. I joined the legal profession when I was 19 as a solicitor’s clerk doing a little bit of everything. Then I went down the ILEx route and qualified as a Fellow in 2001. I became a solicitor in 2004.
“In today’s climate it’s very difficult for young people coming out of university to secure training contracts. The advantage of the CILEx route is that it provides young people with a foot in the door. I think it is now one of the best routes. It is hard work because you are working full time and studying but if you are motivated and you want to get through it then you’ll reap the rewards at the end of it.
“Following qualification as a Fellow of ILEx and then a Solicitor I always knew that I wanted to be a partner. As a partner at Fosters I was provided with the additional role of becoming a branch manager. This brought some new challenges and a new skill set. After three years of this role I was looking for my next challenge. A judicial position seemed to be the next step. The JAC website was my first port of call, without looking at the website I think you would be underprepared. It tells you everything that you need to know and do. Reading the case studies gives you a valuable insight and tips on how to present yourself in the best light. I also spoke to other people who had successfully been through the process and they gave me lots of advice.
“I found the process detailed and challenging but I was also made to feel comfortable. It was very well run and everything went to time so I was calm in myself. The panel put me at ease. I felt relaxed and gave honest answers, rather than answers I thought the panel might want to hear - I was just myself. In giving honest answers the panel saw my character and personality.
“After the exercise I said to my family that even if I didn’t get through I was really pleased I had completed the process and I wouldn’t be put off doing it again. I found it a really positive experience.
“I’m really looking forward to this new opportunity and in particular conducting the hearings. I am excited about having a different role to play – rather than putting forward an argument, actually deciding on the issues in front of you. It’s a different skill set, looking at things very objectively.
“My firm Fosters has been incredibly supportive. They see my role as something very positive for them in terms of having a partner who will now acquire this different skill set. They will ensure I have the time I need to dedicate to the position because they can see the benefits it will bring in terms of personal, professional and business development.”
Case study taken from JAC website
Deputy District Judge
I am now in my 67th year and a retired member of the Bar but continue to sit as a Deputy District Judge having been appointed in 1991. I have a Section 8 ticket which means I am able to hear Private Law cases relating to children. I attended the Judicial Mentoring Scheme training run by the Judicial College and realised that I fall squarely into what some might say is the “non-traditional background” category. This gave me the idea to share my story about how I became a judge.
I left a South West London secondary school at the age of 15 in 1965. Sadly there was not much hope for me without any formal qualifications. I applied for several apprenticeships but without success. The youth employment officer told me that a firm of solicitors on Richmond Green required an outdoor clerk. I had no idea what a firm of solicitors were let alone an outdoor clerk. It turned out the job of an outdoor clerk back in the sixties was to attend court and issue process. I spent many hours at Somerset House and the RCJ. At that point in time everything had to be done by hand. I would also attend court to sit behind counsel.
The firm was Calvert- Smith and Sutcliffe and had been founded by the grandfather of Sir David Calvert-Smith. The firm at that time was in the hands of his dad known to us all as Mr. Arthur. I would be sent off to appear before the Masters which was very, very frightening. I recall a hearing in Chancery and it was in camera. When a case is heard in camera it means that the public are not admitted, only the parties and their advocates. Counsel told me to sit outside which I did but I should have been in court. You can imagine what the managing clerk said when I returned. He was not happy as I had no idea what went on. It never happened again.
I enjoyed being in the law and at the ripe old age of 30 realised that if I was going to stay there then I needed to obtain the right qualifications. By then I was married and had a family and mortgage. I started off with the Legal Executive exams and was admitted as a Fellow in 1981. Then the CPE/Graduate Diploma in Law and eventually the Legal Practice Course (LPC) after which I was admitted as a solicitor in January 1984. I should also say I was in debt as I was a full time student in my last year at The College of Law Guildford.
I went from hearings in chambers to a regular advocate in all courts and in 1991 I was appointed as a Deputy District Judge (civil). As a solicitor I obtained my Higher Rights (crime) in 1994 and appeared frequently in the Crown Court as well as making a number of excursions to the Court of Appeal. At the even more ripe age of 55 I was called to the Bar. I continued to sit regularly as a Deputy and had the opportunity of sitting in a number of London courts where I had all those years before appeared as an outdoor clerk.
During the last few years I have given a number of talks to school children interested in coming in to the law and hopefully shown to them that it is possible to succeed within the profession whatever your background may be. I am also a mentor on the JAC mentoring scheme for those seeking judicial appointment and taught CILEx studies at South Downs College for some 14 years in Civil and Crime resulting in many students successfully achieving their CILEx qualifications.
So my message to CILEx members is “yes, you can become a judge.”
Philip Rogers is a district judge based in Norwich a former trainer at the Judicial College, editor of the Consumer Credit and Consumer Law sections of the White Book and Mentor to CILEx members taking part in the CILEx Judicial Development Programme. He is a former CILEx Fellow, solicitor and barrister
I studied at a secondary modern school in Norwich and left at 16. The career adviser mentioned there was a role called a legal executive, which might be something I would be able to do.
This was the mid-1960s and my parents could not afford to support me at university. So I started in the back office as a junior clerk and took the legal executive exams on half-day release at the local college. I became fascinated with the law and rather dedicated to study. I still have my Associates and Fellowship certificates.
In those days legal executives could not become partners. You could not therefore get to the top – although there were some Legal Executives in the middle ranks – and that is why I qualified as a solicitor. You were not given managerial responsibility and you worked in a specialist field to which you were dedicated. I was a personal injury specialist.
I qualified as a solicitor through a correspondence course and eventually went on to become the senior partner of a firm I set up in Norwich which has now celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Running a practice requires much administration time and I eventually began to feel rather more of a manager than a lawyer. I decided to go back to being a lawyer and to transfer to the bar. I obtained a tenancy in Lincoln’s Inn and continued mainly to specialise in personal injury cases. Five years on I was appointed as a judge – initially as a fee-paid (part-time) deputy district judge – and I have now been in the full-time judiciary for 18 years. I retire from the full time bench at the end of June and have been appointed a Deputy to continue on a part time basis for the foreseeable future.
Along the way I also qualified as a chartered arbitrator, which involved me serving as a pupil to a civil engineering arbitrator. I learned many skills from him which have served me very well over the years.
When I was called to the Bar, I was asked what took me so long to get there. I was rather flattered by this comment as I had not recognised until then quite what a scenic route I had taken. It had taken me years of working until 10 or 11pm in the office or studying, which was really quite tortuous and needed a lot of energy.
But I had a family, earned a living and was entirely self-sufficient. I also learned a lot of life skills that I would not have gained otherwise; my route was rich in its experiences.
As a district judge, I have found it useful that I started out interacting with all kinds of people and this has enabled me to understand people coming before me. I understand where they are coming from and how best to handle the situations which arise.
Parties coming before a court often conceal the real problems and I feel I can get underneath that more quickly due to my background. As a district judge you are very much at the coalface – you have to get to the nuts and bolts of the case and that is an acquired art.
It is quite right that CILEx Fellows should apply for judicial appointment. I am pleased that after all these years they have been given the recognition they deserve. They are professionally qualified and it is not an easy route.
It is just a matter of time before more CILEx Fellow judges come through. Not everyone will want to do it – many are very happy in their current role – but this is a question of choice of work rather than ability. CILEx Fellows’ technical work is often of a higher level than that of other lawyers and there are very few general practitioner solicitors now; so Fellows should not have concerns about being too specialist.
I am honoured to have been invited to act as Mentor to those CILEx members interested in becoming members of the Judiciary through the Judicial Development Programme. I have certainly found my role as District Judge rewarding and an office where it is possible to make a real difference in fulfilling public service.
Chairman of police misconduct panel.
I started my career at 17 working as a legal apprentice on the old employment training scheme which was the fore runner to modern apprenticeships.
During this period I undertook the first part of the CILEx examinations.
I ended up working for large defendant personal injury firms during the early part of my career and was always looking to move forward and improve myself. I then got the opportunity to run a branch office of a Claimant firm and after a couple of years took the step of setting up my own Firm which I ran successfully for 13 years. I now work in house and as a consultant.
I was a member of CILEx Council when CILEx obtained the right for members to apply for judicial positions. This was something that always interested me. In the years before applying for a position I qualified as a mediator which helped me greatly in my day to day work but also helps when sitting as a judge. I also built up a good deal of useful experience that I used when completing my applications, ranging from being president of cilex, sitting as a school governor and being involved in a campaign in relation to access to cancer drugs on the NHS.
I reached the last stage of the process for DDJ and social entitlement tribunal chair but fell at the final hurdle, the role play and interview day.
Despite the disappointment I was determined not to give up.
When the new role of independent legal chair of the police misconduct tribunal was created I applied immediately as I always had an interest in police matters having acted for and against the police in civil cases.
I was formally appointed in January 2016 and have sat on some high profile cases which have been widely reported. This is due to the fact that 2016 also saw changes allowing access to hearings for the press and the public.
I have dealt with cases involving dereliction of duty, sexist and racist comments and sexual touching in the workplace. There are a range of outcomes available to the panel ranging from management advice up to dismissal without notice.
The CILEx qualifications are, in my opinion, an ideal route into law and for becoming a Judge.