Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (pictured) famously exhorted women to ‘lean in’ to gain professional recognition and promotion. This has been criticised for presuming the absence of barriers based on prejudice.
But Sandberg’s advice is relevant to solicitors who would like to join the judiciary. Faced with increased competition from barristers whose incomes have shrunk, solicitors are leaning not ‘in’, but ‘back’. As the chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission notes, it is disappointing to see fewer solicitor applications and recommendations than in previous exercises.
It is not the case that hurling more solicitors into the annual two-week application period would lead to a full correction of the imbalance. After all, when it comes to all judicial positions, 16% of barristers succeed, whereas the figure is 5% for solicitors.
But solicitors intending to ‘lean in’ have a number of opportunities to do so, including the chance to shadow judges. That those skills are distinct from courtroom ‘advocacy’ should be noted.
The commission is once again encouraging more solicitors to apply. It would be in the interests of justice for many more solicitors to find ways to answer that call.