Elizabeth Johnson, an associate in the Exeter office of Ashfords, has become the first female chartered legal executive appointed to the judiciary.
She has been appointed as a fee-paid judge of the First-tier Tribunal, assigned to the social entitlement chamber.
A personal injury specialist with over 20 years’ experience in all aspects of injury, insurance and liability claims, she is likely to preside over her first hearing next month.
There are two male chartered legal executives on the bench, plus several solicitors who started their professional careers with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
Ms Johnson qualified in 1998 and worked for Beachcrofts before joining Ashfords eight years ago.
In 2017, she took part in CILEx’s judicial development programme, which supports members preparing to make their application for a judicial appointment.
She said: “I am very excited to be appointed as a judge, and to be the first female CILEx judge is a real honour.
“Whilst the application process is tough, I have demonstrated that, with the right skills and expertise, it is achievable. I hope that my appointment will encourage more chartered legal executives, and women, to apply for judicial office.”
Ms Johnson said she was not even aware that chartered legal executives could apply to the judiciary until she heard about CILEx’s training programme.
“I’m not one to shy away from a challenge and after a lot of thought and research I was confident that I would be a strong candidate.
“The support from CILEx meant I benefited from expert advice on how to complete competency-based applications and mentoring from CILEx-qualified District Judge Stephen Nicholls. This support was invaluable in giving me the knowledge and confidence to go ahead.”
CILEx president Philip Sherwood said: “There is currently considerable under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in our judiciary. This urgently needs to change to ensure the judiciary better reflects the society it serves.
“Elizabeth’s appointment sends a message to our members, 75% of whom are women, that the judiciary is a potential career path for them.”
The appointment comes at a time when CILEx is pushing for chartered legal executives to be allowed to apply to all levels of the judiciary, as they are currently unable to apply for posts higher than district judge.