Proportion of solicitor-judges dips despite diversity drive

Solicitors are less represented among the judiciary than they were four years ago – despite a government-funded diversity programme .

According to statistics released today by the Judicial Office, ‘non-barrister’ representation among court judges decreased by three percentage points between 2015 and 2019. It fell by five percentage points for tribunal judges. Almost all ‘non-barristers’ were formerly solicitors, the report says.

As of 1 April 2019, just a third of court judges used to be solicitors or legal executives, and figures are far lower in some judicial areas. For example, 13% of circuit judges and 6% of recorders were not barristers prior to appointment.

Earlier this year, figures published by the Judicial Appointments Commission revealed that barristers were twice as likely as solicitors to make the bench, despite multiple attempts by the government to re-set the balance. In April, for example, the Ministry of Justice unveiled an education programme to draw on ‘a greater diverse range of knowledge and expertise’.
The report released today also looks at gender and ethnic diversity. Figures show that 32% of court judges and 46% of tribunal judges are now women, an increase of six and three percentage points respectively over the past four years.

Meanwhile, 7% of court judges are black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME), compared with 11% of the general population (when age distribution is taken into account). Only 1% of court judges are black or black British.

In his introduction to the new statistics, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett says: ‘The Judicial Diversity Committee has set out the steps it plans to take over the next 12 months to reach a more diverse pool of lawyers and focus its efforts on attracting new talent and supporting career progression.

‘The committee will shortly publish its annual plan and report. Amongst other measures, the committee is working to support and encourage solicitors to join the judiciary.’

Law Society president Simon Davis said: ‘Solicitors bring to the bench intellectual rigour and sophisticated interpersonal skills, which will be increasingly valuable as the number of litigants in person in our courts grows. The Law Society is committed to working with the pre-application judicial education initiative to address the under-representation of solicitors and people with protected characteristics in the judiciary.’

First published by The Law Society Gazette on July 11, 2019

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *