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Good news on diversity in judicial appointments – unless you are a solicitor

Courts: where are the solicitors? [1]

Courts: where are the solicitors?

Solicitors were the least successful group of people applying for judicial appointment over the last six months, and the situation is getting worse, the latest figures from the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) have shown.

While for most characteristics recorded, such as gender and race, the proportion of applicants was roughly in line with the proportion ultimately recommended for appointment, this was not the case for solicitors.

Some 45% of those who applied for 20 selection exercises during the period were solicitors, but only 27% of recommendations came from that branch of the profession.

The problem seems to occur after the initial sift of applicants, as 50% of those shortlisted were solicitors.

The figures also showed the difficulty with getting solicitors to apply in the first place – for example, 85% of the recruitment pool for deputy district judges (civil) were solicitors, but only 58% of applicants were. And just 34% of those recommended were solicitors.

By contrast, 57% of those recommended were barristers, even though they made up 28% of those who applied. One in six barristers succeeded, compared to one in 20 solicitors.

Also, 20 of the 23 chartered legal executives who applied were shortlisted, but none were appointed.

The situation is deteriorating. This was the fourth civil DDJ exercise in the last eight years; in 2007, 78% of applicants and 68% of recommendations were solicitors.

The statistics showed that 42% of all applicants, 42% of the shortlisted candidates and 43% of recommended candidates were women, and overall the proportions of applicants who were women were similar to the proportions of women in the posts’ respective eligible pools.

Some 17% of applicants were from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background, as were 18% of shortlisted candidates and 13% of recommendations.

Christopher Stephens, chairman of the JAC, said: “The latest statistics show a solid performance for both women and BAME candidates. For example, the JAC recently recommended 10 new High Court judges of exceptional quality. These include three women, four judges aged under 50, one with a disability and two with a BAME background. This is a diverse group of senior judiciary.”

There were 73 applicants for the High Court posts, of whom 39 were barristers, 24 existing salaried judicial office holders and five solicitors. Nine of the appointments were barristers and the other an existing judge.

Mr Stephens said: “The figures for solicitors and CILEx Fellows are disappointing this time, particularly for the deputy district judge (civil) selection exercise. There was a much stronger field of candidates for this exercise than the previous one in 2012 and so competition was particularly tough.

“I hope to see candidates from both professional backgrounds achieve more success in the exercises to be reported in the next set of statistics.”