Edward Murray, Recorder

Edward Murray was appointed as a High Court judge in 2018. He became a Recorder (Crime) in 2009 and a Deputy High Court judge in the Chancery Division in 2013. He was a solicitor and for many years a partner in the Derivatives and Structured Finance group at Allen & Overy.

Judicial appointment. What happened next?

We caught up with Edward Murray in 2016 to find out how his career has progressed since becoming a Recorder.

“After I finished the training for new Recorders, I began sitting at Maidstone Crown Court in April 2010. During the next 3 years I combined sitting as a Recorder, typically in one or two week blocks, with running my practice as a partner in a large City firm. After a year at Maidstone, I began sitting at other Crown Courts in the South East Region.

“In April 2013 I retired as a partner, becoming a part‑time consultant to the firm, to free up time for my judicial work, teaching and legal writing. In September 2013 I became a  Deputy High Court Judge in the Chancery Division, which at that time would not have happened had I not already had judicial experience, especially given that I was not a litigator, much less an advocate.

“My judicial work has certainly broadened my perspective and improved my analytical and communications skills as a lawyer. As a fee-paid judge I deal with legal matters outside my area of specialisation, although in my work in the Chancery Division the legal principles arising are for the most part familiar. I think sitting as a Recorder and as a DHCJ has also improved my listening skills and has taught me that I have greater reserves of patience than I realised!

“Running my practice as a partner while sitting up to 6 weeks was challenging. Fortunately, the process of booking sittings as a Recorder or DHCJ is flexible, particularly the ability to book weeks or months in advance when the long-term vacancy lists are circulated for the Crown Courts in the South East Region. Over the years I have become better at managing the balance.

“My firm has been fantastically supportive ever since I first raised the idea of seeking a fee-paid judicial role. Even before retiring as a partner, the firm was accommodating, so that I could manage the training and sitting obligations, particularly during my first year as a Recorder. It’s important to develop a good dialogue with one’s colleagues, and for there to be give and take on both sides.

“I have discovered a surprising number of people in the firm, and other solicitors’ firms in the City, are interested in a part-time judicial role. The fact that I have been able to do it has sent a strongly encouraging signal to those colleagues. One benefit for a firm in having a judge on the staff is that younger colleagues and potential trainees see that joining a City law firm does not mean having to give up any judicial ambition.

“The Bar has traditionally enjoyed a close relationship with the Bench, for obvious reasons.  It is right that the solicitors’ profession should develop closer links with the Bench. This will help to produce a broader and more diverse pool of potential judicial recruits.

“The best thing about being a Recorder has been the feeling of involvement in important matters where there is an opportunity to make a positive difference. For example, in sentencing a young defendant with no prior convictions with a view towards reparation to the victim and to rehabilitation or in ensuring that vulnerable participants in the court process, whether complainant, defendant or third party witness, are treated fairly and are able effectively to give their evidence.

“To anyone thinking of applying I’d say: do not underestimate the commitment required, but if you are serious in your preparation, you will find the path to be navigable and, following appointment, you will find the work of a Recorder to be tremendously rewarding. If you would find it helpful to discuss your thoughts, concerns, questions, give me a ring or drop me an email. I would love to hear from you.”

Edward Murray’s case study from 2009, when he was first appointed Recorder. He talks about his reasons for applying to become a judge and how he prepared for the selection exercise.

A Recorder (Crime) sits in the Crown Court. His/her jurisdiction is the same as that of a Circuit Judge, but he/she generally handles less complex or serious matters coming before the court. The jurisdiction of a Deputy High Court Judge is the same as that of a High Court Judge, but he/she handles the less complex matters coming before the Division in which he/she sits.

“I was born and raised in the US, but went to Ireland for university to read philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. Afterwards I went back to the States, to Harvard Law School, then joined a US law firm in New York, looking to move to the firm’s London office at the earliest opportunity. It came after 2 years. But, after practising for a further 2 years in London, I decided that, if I was going to stay in London long-term, I should play for the ‘home team’. So I joined A&O in 1990, re-qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and not long after naturalised as a UK citizen.

“Although I went down the financial law path, I have always been interested in litigation and occasionally regretted not having become an advocate. My real regret, though, was having, I thought, foreclosed the possibility of becoming a judge.

“In 2008 I went along to a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) seminar hosted by A&O. That was the first time I heard someone say that you do not need to be a litigator to do a judicial role. A month later, I went to another JAC seminar, this time at the Law Society, featuring Alexandra Marks, who was then a commercial property partner at Linklaters and also a Recorder. I found her remarks and her example inspiring. She is now a JAC Commissioner!

“I told my firm at a regular personal development meeting that I was interested in getting a fee-paid judicial position. They were very supportive, and I do not expect every firm would be.

“One of the partners – David Mackie QC – had been appointed as an Assistant Recorder in 1988, became a Recorder, then a Deputy High Court Judge and a full-time Mercantile Circuit Judge in 2005. He was for some time the Chief Mercantile Judge before his recent retirement from the Bench. He was based in the Rolls Building after it opened, and he sat virtually full-time in the Commercial Court. It was David who encouraged me to apply for a Recorder (crime) role and I was surprised to find out later that 40% of my judicial intake had a civil background.

“When I decided to go for it, I did some serious reading. Alexandra Marks suggested the Bar Professional Training Course book “Criminal Litigation and Sentencing”, which I read cover to cover. I followed that quickly with a few other books on evidence, criminal procedure and sentencing and, of course, I have carried on reading ever since. One of the burdens (and blessings!) of the judicial role is the amount of reading necessary, not only to get on top of all of the core competences, but also to keep up-to-date as new cases and statutory materials appear each week in the criminal sphere. The Judicial College, formerly the Judicial Studies Board, is a tremendous source of helpful materials.

“David Mackie let me shadow him in the Commercial Court. I applied for the official work shadowing scheme and was fortunate enough to get three days in Kingston Crown Court, and additionally sat in the public gallery in Inner London and Southwark Crown courts. I did not think I had done that well in the role play on the selection day, so was relieved at my appointment. What made a huge difference for me was the shadowing. I think that having some degree of court sense is helpful for the qualifying test too.

“To take up the appointment, I reached an agreement with my firm to adjust my role. I felt this would take some pressure off me, and allow me to feel completely comfortable in sitting potentially up to six weeks each year. Being a partner, you generally have more autonomy and flexibility in a firm, although you also have greater client and practice management demands. An associate may find it more difficult to get this sort of flexibility, particularly because they are less able to control their diaries. But I believe that my firm would want to cut a deal with an aspiring fee-paid judicial officeholder, to keep the associate in the firm and motivated. It is also good for the prestige of the firm and for recruitment if we are seen to be open to our lawyers seeking judicial appointment. I retired as a partner shortly before I began sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge, and my current role as a Consultant to the firm allows me to carry on with both my judicial roles.

“In some ways I feel that not being an advocate is a disadvantage both for the application process and, at least initially, for carrying out the role. The JAC is right to encourage non-advocates like me, but people should be aware that, if you come from a non-contentious background, you will have an additional challenge. This is all the more so if your everyday practice is on the civil side and you are going for a criminal law judicial role. Good preparation, of course, is essential whatever your background.

There are a number of aspects of sitting as a judge that are common to my Crown Court and my Chancery Division work, but there are, not surprisingly, also important differences.  In both courts it is necessary to give ex tempore rulings from time to time, but in the High Court it is also occasionally necessary to prepare a detailed reserved judgment, which can require a good deal of time.  It is a skill that needs to be mastered.  In both the Crown Court and in the Chancery Division, the support I have had from court staff has been little short of heroic, particularly in view of heavy budget constraints. The full-time judges in each court in which I have sat have almost all been welcoming and generous with their time and their wisdom.

“Even now, at the beginning of each day sitting as a judge, I have a few butterflies in the stomach. It is a good thing because it keeps me on my toes. Very occasionally at the end of the day I ask myself, ‘why did I want to do this?’.  Most days, however, are very satisfying. The work is interesting, constantly challenging in different ways, and you feel that you have helped to make a positive difference, whether it is by ensuring a fair trial in the Crown Court or resolving in a constructive way a longstanding dispute between civil litigants.”

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