The first part-time High Court judge could start sitting next year after the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) launched a competition that allows candidates to work under flexible arrangements.
Applications opened yesterday for nine opportunities to sit in the Queen’s Bench (QB) or Family Divisions, and one of the QB posts is available for part-time or flexible working.
It follows a change in the law in April 2013 that enables part-time working for the High Court bench, with a view to increasing diversity.
The JAC said it hoped this would encourage candidates who might not previously have considered applying.
Applicants do not need to be a QC or to have sat as a deputy High Court judge. However, they must be “a high-performing lawyer with significant experience and show leadership potential”.
The JAC said there are three potential flexible working patterns available for the position:
- A commitment to a number of days per week and only suitable for someone wishing to apply for a generalist post (limited to employment or administrative law, or to sit in the Employment Appeal Tribunal); or
- A minimum of 60% working full weeks with a commitment to a blocked period of working (eg, could sit in crime, defamation, planning or general QB work); or
- Two people, each working 50% on a salaried part-time working basis, working blocked periods only.
Candidates have to indicate in their application forms any of the flexible working patterns they would wish to be considered for, but this will not form any part of the selection process, the JAC said.
Final working patterns will need to be discussed and agreed between the successful candidate, relevant head of division and HM Courts and Tribunals Service at the time of appointment.
Women made up a third of the last recommendations to the High Court and there is now a record number of women (19) on the bench there.
JAC chairman Christopher Stephens said: “Women have been making good progress at the entry and middle levels of the judiciary for some time and it is very positive to see this filtering through to the High Court. Women should be encouraged by this and apply in greater numbers – when they do apply, they are achieving high levels of success.”
Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: “We know we need a more diverse judiciary, especially in the higher ranks. We know there are plenty of able women and other diverse lawyers out there who could be great judges. There are fewer barriers now than ever before. But if you don't apply they can't appoint you – you have to be ‘in it to win it’.”
The application window closes at noon on 4 November 2013. Click here  for more details.