The Judicial Office has launched a pilot programme to improve the diversity of the High Court bench and encourage more applications from senior lawyers and legal academics.
Places on the programme, which includes work shadowing and mentoring with a High Court judge, will be limited to women and those from BAME or “less advantaged social or educational” backgrounds.
A spokesman said the programme would run from the end of this month to June and conclude with a one-day applications workshop, giving advice on how to prepare for a selection exercise run by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).
A JAC selection exercise in July this year will, for the first time, allow those with no previous judicial experience to apply to be deputy High Court judges.
Launching the diversity programme, Lady Justice Hallett said involvement was limited to women and those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds because those were the areas where the judiciary was “significantly less representative” of society.
“Taking part in the support programme will not guarantee appointment by the Judicial Appointments Commission as a deputy High Court judge or success in a subsequent High Court exercise,” she said.
“Appointment is on merit – and rightly so. But hopefully, it will encourage candidates to apply and provide them with the tools they need to compete.
“The judiciary of England and Wales is the envy of the world for its skill, fairness and integrity. Sitting as a High Court judge is one of the toughest legal jobs there is; but it is also one of the most satisfying and intellectually rewarding.”
A spokesman for the Judicial Office said taking part in the programme was completely separate from the JAC and no “guarantee of success” in its selection exercises, but it would provide candidates with support to help them apply.
As well as coming from the three specified groups, applicants for the 30 places on the programme should have the qualifications required to apply to be a High Court judge and must have no previous judicial experience.