Lord chancellor David Gauke has held ‘informal’ discussions with City law firms about encouraging their solicitors into the judiciary. Gauke, a former City solicitor himself, told the House of Lords constitution committee today that greater efforts were required to encourage people to think about moving to the bench in their early forties.

The committee heard many City solicitors may shun the judiciary because their salary will drop, while too many contemplate a change in their fifties when they are nearing retirement, rather than earlier in their career.

Gauke said: ‘I look at my own background as a solicitor in the City and see a lot of people who I think would have been very good judges, but probably it never even occurred to them they could or should do that. In some cases people would have been interested but are not encouraged along.’

It was suggested by committee member Lord Judge, the former lord chief justice Igor Judge, that City firms are not doing enough to push their staff into applying for a post.

Gauke said firms have told him the route for solicitors was perceived as difficult and put off many from applying. This year, he told the committee, there was also evidence of a lack of applications for High Court roles in particular.

The justice secretary rejected the idea of setting targets for recruitment of solicitors, saying ‘first and foremost this has got to be about excellence and getting the very best people into the judiciary’.

‘I would not want to be in a position of compromising on standards in any way,’ he added.

Figures from the Judicial Appointments Commission for 2016/17 show that while 43% of applicants for judicial roles were solicitors, solicitors represented just 10% of recommendations.