Independent assessments (references): candidate guidance

Independent assessments allow people who know you and your work to provide evidence of how you meet the standard required for effective performance in a judicial post. The competency framework sets out the required standard.

For some non-legal exercises, the term ‘references’ will still be in use. There is no change in the way the JAC uses these assessments. The guidance on this page applies to all JAC exercises regardless of the terminology used.

The JAC uses independent assessments:

  • as a source of evidence to assess the merit of candidates
  • to verify candidates are of good character
  • to identify issues to explore further during selection

Independent assessments are also available to the JAC’s Selection and Character Committee before it makes recommendations to the Appropriate Authority.

You need to give details of 2 assessors on your application form. It is your responsibility to nominate an assessor that knows your work well and can give a first-hand account of your abilities.

Types of independent assessments

There are 3 types of independent assessment:

Professional: written by someone who can provide evidence-based examples of your performance in your profession against the competencies

Personal: written by someone who can provide evidence-based examples of your suitability for the role against the competencies; a personal reference will normally be requested for non-legal roles only

Judicial (if you currently hold a judicial appointment): written by a relevant judge who can provide evidence-based examples of your performance as a judicial office holder against the competencies

The type of independent assessment needed will depend on the position you hold:

  • if you are a salaried judicial office holder, you need 2 judicial assessors
  • if you are a professional with one or more fee-paid judicial roles, you need one professional and one judicial assessor; the judicial assessor should be the judge who can provide examples most relevant to the role for which you are applying
  • if you do not hold judicial office and you are employed, you will usually need 2 professional assessors, or for some exercises you can provide one professional and one personal assessor

Who to choose

It is important that you choose the right assessor. Ideally you should choose someone from your current employment or who has knowledge of your work in a judicial or professional capacity. If you work or practice independently, you may wish to choose someone (such as a judge) who has seen you practice and can provide good examples of your skills in relation to the required competencies.

A professional assessor could be:

  • a senior partner or head of chambers
  • a judicial office holder who can give examples of your professional work
  • a client (including a local authority official) or a magistrate
  • a line manager if you are from a non-legal background; if there is no line manager, then a current or former colleague or client

A judicial assessor could be:

  • the senior judge of the court, jurisdiction or circuit where you sit most often
  • the Senior President or Lord President (Scotland) if you are a Chamber/Tribunal President
  • the Lord Justice Clerk or Sheriff Principal if you are a Sheriff (Scotland only)
  • your appraising judge if you sit on a tribunal

If you are unable to provide one of the above, consider another judge who has first-hand knowledge of your work. If you are unable to provide any judicial assessor, contact the JAC, giving your reasons writing.

A personal assessor could be:

  • a former colleague or client who is familiar with the way you work

The same principles apply if you have been on maternity leave or a career break. There is no time limit on how recently you have worked with your assessor, although within the last 2 years is recommended so they can provide recent examples.

Do not nominate:

  • another individual who is applying for judicial office in the same exercise
  • a JAC commissioner
  • a relative (even if you work or have worked with them in a professional capacity)

If you are still unsure who to choose, contact the JAC.


The JAC will contact all nominated assessors directly. The timing of independent assessment requests will be stated in the information for each exercise.

If shortlisting involves a paper sift, independent assessments are usually requested for all candidates shortly after the application deadline.

If there is a qualifying test, independent assessments are usually only requested for candidates who are invited to interview.


An assessor may choose to share the content of their independent assessment with you, but the JAC will treat the information as confidential and will not disclose it to you.

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