In a bid to encourage more solicitors to become judges, the judiciary has widened a diversity support scheme to candidates with no litigation experience.

The Judicial Appointments Commission is expected to be asked early next year to run a selection exercise to attract lawyers and legal academics from non-traditional backgrounds to sit as deputy High Court judges. The competition will be open to all.

To prepare for the exercise, the judicial diversity committee has today opened a support programme for those from under-represented groups interested in applying to the deputy high court judge selection exercise.

Due to the nature of the scheme, the 30 available places are limited to candidates from areas where the judiciary is significantly less representative of society - women, those from a less advantaged background, and black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates. However, the judiciary said today that 'to attract more solicitors and legal academics to the senior judiciary', eligibility is being extended to those without litigation experience.

Keen to make the judiciary more diverse, senior members have expressed anxiety about efforts to recruit solicitors to the bench. Judicial diversity statistics for 2017 show that the percentage of judges in courts with a non-barrister background fell from 37% to 34% since 2014. The proportion of judges with a non-barrister background in the tribunals has decreased from 67% to 66% between 2015 and 2017.

However, progress is being made, with two solicitors among the latest High Court appointments: former Linklaters partner Clare Moulder and Peter Lane, who specialised in infrastructure projects.

In other judicial news, the Supreme Court has announced that Lord Mance will become its deputy president, succeeding Lady Hale who becomes president following Lord Neuberger's retirement.

Mance is one of the original Supreme Court justices who moved to the court from the House of Lords in 2009 when the highest court in the UK opened. He read law at Oxford and spent time at a Hamburg law firm before practising at the commercial bar and sitting as a recorder.

He has chaired various banking appeals tribunals and was founder director of the Bar Mutual Indemnity Insurance Fund. He represented the UK on the Council of Europe's Consultative Council of European Judges from 2000 to 2011.

Welcoming Mance's appointment, Hale said her successor 'has already made a huge contribution, as a presider and as the lead justice for our international relations with other courts and judicial networks'.