This competition aims to attract applicants from the widest backgrounds, writes Judicial Appointments Commission vice-chairman Lord Justice Burnett.
The Judicial Appointments Commission launched a recorder competition on 1 February 2017. The brief agreed by the lord chancellor and lord chief justice requires the JAC to find the 100 best potential recorders, without regard to their current jurisdictional experience. The need is for about 70 criminal and 30 family recorders.
The roles are open to solicitors and barristers with seven years’ post-qualification experience. We will welcome applications from solicitors from all backgrounds.
To make sure we can attract applications from the widest backgrounds, the JAC has designed the process for this selection exercise so that applicants will not have to be a specialist family or criminal practitioner or study the detail of a new jurisdiction to be ready to apply.
As with all judicial appointments, applications are encouraged from those groups currently under-represented in the judiciary: solicitors, women, ethnic minority and disabled applicants.
We expect a large number of applicants. The 2015 competition attracted nearly 1,250.
In 2017 the process will have four stages:
1. an online multiple-choice test designed to test situational judgment and critical analysis; about 60% of candidates will proceed to stage two;
2. an online scenario test that will be marked by a panel; it is designed to invite written narrative answers and will also help to determine whether the candidate is able to answer the questions succinctly and coherently;
3. a telephone assessment that will involve analysing a text and answering questions about it. Only those selected for telephone assessment will be asked to complete the self-assessment and provide details of people who can provide independent assessments (references). The self-assessment will be considered alongside the telephone assessment; and
4. an interview and role-play; independent assessments will be considered at this stage.
In the previous recorder competition there was concern that all applicants were required to complete the self-assessment form even though, for those who did not get through the initial stages, the forms played no part in selection. They were also asked to provide details of referees, but those were taken up only in respect of candidates interviewed. The JAC recognised that there are better ways of doing this and has changed the process for 2017.
Those who are nominated as independent assessors must know the candidate’s work and provide an evidence-based assessment. Please do not be seduced by status; nominating your assessors is not about who you know, it is about who knows you.
The tests have been devised and extensively ‘road-tested’ by practitioners and judges from different jurisdictions and backgrounds, taking expert advice, to check that they select fairly on merit. We recognise there were technical IT problems that frustrated some candidates in 2015 and we are as confident as we can be that they have been ironed out.
We have not been asked to select candidates for specific geographic locations. We have been asked to recommend for appointment the best potential judges – it is as simple as that. Then it will be for the lord chief justice to deploy them.
I started my judicial life as a criminal recorder but was not a criminal practitioner. The pre-JAC appointment system involved filling out an application form and being interviewed. What happens now is more sophisticated but really only a development of what has long gone before. Being a part-time judge is stimulating, worthwhile and can be enormous fun. If you think you have what it takes, have a go.
Lord Justice Burnett, vice-chairman, Judicial Appointments Commission
Lord Justice Burnett was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in October 2014, and vice-chairman of the JAC in November 2015.
He was an assistant recorder and recorder, before appointment as a deputy High Court judge and then High Court judge in 2008.