I am a British Pakistani Muslim, from an inner-city background. My background motivated me to succeed in a highly competitive profession. As a barrister based in the regions, I was a member of the Attorney General’s A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown, the Welsh Government A Panel of Counsel, the Equality and Human Rights Commission A Panel and the Attorney General’s Panel of Special Advocates. As a Special Advocate, I dealt with complex national security cases in challenging closed material proceedings in a range of civil cases. I won the ‘Barrister of the Year’ award twice in the ‘Birmingham Law Society Legal Awards’.
I was always interested in a judicial career, but the Covid pandemic accelerated the process. The first lockdown meant that I had the time to focus on a credible application. I had no recent previous judicial experience. However, I had quasi-judicial experience as a legally qualified chair of various regulatory bodies and was an arbitrator. This enabled me to bring cross-transferable skills to the role.
I had always thought that being a Circuit Judge was beyond a person of my background. I had never appeared before a person who looked like me. That made me more motivated to apply. It is important that people from minority backgrounds apply to become judges. The bench should reflect the community which it serves. This builds public confidence in the system. I can bring a different viewpoint based upon my background and experience, which improves judicial decision-making. Other judges also encouraged me to apply.
The JAC processes is fair, but rigorous. It can be daunting. You need to allow sufficient time to focus on your application. The application form presents you with an opportunity to provide evidence-based examples on how you meet the competencies required for the role. I focused on what I did when dealing with the specific challenge faced. Think carefully about your referees and nominate those who can evidence your work. If you are shortlisted for interview, the process involves situational questioning. You need to read thoroughly the material provided in advance and think about the likely questions. In short, you need to “master your brief”.
It is an enormous privilege being a Circuit Judge. You make decisions which have a real impact on people’s lives. The work is varied and intellectually stimulating. One week I could be hearing a complex clinical negligence case involving several medical experts. The next, I could be dealing with an anti-social behaviour injunction involving a vulnerable disabled defendant, which is no less important to the persons involved. The support you get from the Presiding Judges (the High Court Judges on Circuit) is great. They are really interested in the work you are doing and how they can support you. There are also opportunities to contribute to the improvement of the judicial system, beyond just sitting. Regular ‘Expressions of Interest’ are advertised to join various Councils and other bodies to make the system more accessible, fair and effective, and making recommendations for change. In short, you have the opportunity to make a difference.
What are you waiting for? If you want a rewarding and stimulating judicial career where you have the opportunity to make a difference, whatever your background, you should apply.