First-tier Tribunal Judge Kam Chahal (Mental Health)

“My background was the Leeds Law Centre where I worked for 20 years from 1989 to 2009. I was the senior solicitor and manager of the Law Centre, where the ethos was to provide legal advice and representation to people on low income. I was attracted to this work due to my background. My parents came over from India in 1960 and settled in Shropshire. I had a typical migrant upbringing with all the struggles and challenges at the time. My parents were working class and I attended the local comprehensive school. I never expected to end up in law as I wanted to train as a nurse initially. I attended Chester College of Higher Education studying BA in combined studies.

Whilst at the Law Centre, due to the diverse work we undertook, I regularly represented clients in a range of tribunal settings: Mental Health, Immigration, Social Security and Education appeals. I also did a vast amount of representation before the CICB, County Court and Court of Protection. Due to my experience I felt that I was ready to apply for a judicial post in 2001, and applied for a Fee-paid position for the Mental Health Tribunal. I was successful following a test and probing interview, which I had prepared for like an exam.

I was appointed as a judge in the Special Educational Needs Tribunal in 2006 and as Deputy District Judge (Civil) in 2007. In 2009 I was appointed as a Salaried Tribunal Judge in the Mental Health Jurisdiction.

The JAC competition is fair and transparent. I prepared for all the posts as if I was sitting an exam. The application requires time, thought and good examples corresponding with the competencies. I spent at least 3-4 days preparing my application giving specific examples which were personal and professional. I also prepared thoroughly for the tests, studying and focussing on the relevant law and case law. When I was shortlisted, I studied the competencies and prepared for my interview focussing on that assessment.

Currently, I am working from home and conducting hearings on a Cloud Video Platform. Prior to COVID-19, I travelled to the hospitals and covered the north of England. I really enjoy the diverse work that is involved in my jurisdiction and meeting different members. I feel that with the skills I have, I can make a difference to patients that appear in front of me due to my background and communication style.

The work is thoroughly enjoyable. Preparation is the key to applying for a judicial post.”

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