Paula Tyler is a Circuit Judge on the North Eastern Circuit. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1989, transferred to the bar in 1997 and became a Recorder in 2005.
Circuit judges undertake a wide range of activities in the Crown and County Courts. Those sitting in family work are often concerned with welfare issues in respect of children. In crime, circuit judges have a pivotal role presiding over the trial process, keeping the jury informed and giving them legal directions, and ensuring a fair trial process for defendants and complainants.
“Having been at the Bar for a number of years, it seemed that there were two directions in which one could think of progressing a legal career – applying for silk or the bench and I was definitely not interested in the former. I had been a Recorder for some time and decided to apply for a Circuit Judge appointment and see how it went. I did not pass the initial test the first time I sat it, and this part of the process seemed a little arbitrary to me (and still does).
“I sat the test for a second time in 2010. This time around I did get through and was asked to attend an interview. I found the interview process fine: It was as I expected it to be – focussed on the contents of the application form – and the balance of lay and judicial members on the panel worked well. I was initially told that I had been unsuccessful in my Circuit Judge application, although the feedback I received was very positive. The MoJ then, many months later, indicated a need for several more circuit judges and I was asked, as an ‘appointable’ candidate, whether I wished to be considered. This caused me some turmoil as I had already resigned myself to having been unsuccessful.
“In the run up to the selection exercise I did more part-time sitting in order to prepare for it. I also did a lot of reading around the relevant subject areas (in particular crime, as it is not my area of practice), and, before the interview, thought of more examples from my work in order to expand on the responses I had given in my application form. I also talked to people already on the bench in order to get an idea of whether the change in lifestyle was going to be for me.
“My female partner is also a Circuit Judge. In my experience, during the past 25 years, I have found the bar and the judiciary to be extremely accepting of each of us. I don’t know whether we have been particularly lucky in this, but I am optimistic about the way in which both society in general, and the legal professions in particular, have begun to embrace diversity. My advice is to be yourself – as a member of a minority group one often has a broader perspective which is a positive benefit, and with the emphasis on diversity, hopefully a perspective that is being looked for.”