Swami Raghavan, Upper Tribunal Judge, Tax and Chancery Chamber

“I grew up and went to school in North London, where my family settled after leaving Zambia in the 70s. Along with one of my siblings, I was the first in my family to enter higher education, studying law at Oxford University.

I first qualified as a solicitor in corporate law with a small City firm, before working in-house for both public sector regulatory and corporate bodies. I specialised in tax, financial services and commercial law in the UK, Brussels and in the US, where I was admitted to the New York Bar.

I joined the judiciary as a Salaried Judge in the First-tier Tribunal (FtT), Tax Chamber in 2011, having previously headed up a legal team at a financial regulator, and then became a Deputy Upper Tribunal (UT) Judge (Tax and Chancery) in 2015.

Three years’ experience as a Deputy UT judge, and a number of years’ experience as a salaried FtT judge gave me good first-hand experience of what the salaried UT job involved. The challenge of grappling with complex precedent-setting legal issues, which I wanted to do more of, was a key consideration in applying for the role. The ability to continue with some first-instance work (in financial services, an area where I had experience) was also an attraction. I was appointed as an Upper Tribunal (UT) Judge, Tax and Chancery in May 2018. After some periods away on parental leave, I returned to work in early 2022.

Through the selection process, the prospect of situational questions, in sometimes niche areas I did not have direct experience of, was daunting. However, I found the process of preparing for the questions surprisingly enjoyable making the hard work feel less burdensome. The interview format of giving competence-based examples felt rather stilted compared to the conversational flow of a normal job interview. Don’t let that put you off providing the panel with your best evidence.

As predicted, the judicial work has delivered a varied mix of complex substantive and procedural issues, which now includes a new trade remedies jurisdiction. The experience of co-deciding a case as a two-judge panel of either another Upper Tribunal Judge or a High Court Judge, with access to their intellectual heft and experience, adds an extra dimension of teamwork to the job.

We are a small, supportive and collegiate chamber which can easily tailor support and development to the judge’s particular needs. Newly appointed judges benefit straightaway from hearing and deciding cases with another judicial colleague. Beyond the standard induction materials, there are ad hoc UT-specific training events and we also take part in the joint annual training event with the FTT.

Making fair and just properly reasoned decisions with important real effects is, rightly, a heavy responsibility. The arguments are frequently complex and finely balanced. But it is also what makes the job fulfilling. So too, the judge’s precious independence of decision-making and the ability to play your part in developing and clarifying the law.

I enjoy the role, it is intellectually demanding work, which serves a wider public purpose with friendly and helpful judicial and administrative colleagues.”