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05 JUN 2009

Myths act as a barrier to lawyers applying for judicial office

The Judicial Appointments Commission has published research findings concerning lawyers' misconceptions regarding applications for judicial office.

One third of those who responded believe that they cannot apply unless they know a High Court judge who will act as a referee. It is also widely believed that to become a judge one needs to be a barrister, have the right kind of education, be part of the right social network and know the top judges. Many lawyers still do not see the appointments process as based solely on merit.

The JAC's research published yesterday shows that solicitors are much less likely to want to become a judge than barristers. Solicitors said they feel that they would not be supported by their firms if they applied for a judicial post.

The isolated nature of the role of a judge, the loss of flexibility, the reduction in earnings and the judicial culture are also identified as unappealing factors. However, 55% of lawyers said they would be more likely to apply for judicial office if they could work part-time.

Baroness Prashar, Chairman of the JAC said: "The findings of this research provide a sound basis for future work by the JAC, the professions, the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and those who support underrepresented groups. It also reassures us that while our approach to date has been right it needs to be built upon further.

"We will continue to work with the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Institute of Legal Executives, the Judiciary, the MoJ and other groups to dispel these unfounded myths and to develop an even sharper and better targeted approach to encourage applicants from a much more diverse pool."

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