Queen’s Counsel (QC)
Queen’s Counsel (QCs) are appointed from amongst practising advocates – both barristers and solicitors. They are appointed because they have demonstrated excellence in advocacy in difficult cases in the higher courts of England and Wales, or in tribunals or arbitrations. The Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel is responsible for recommendations to the Lord Chancellor on appointment of Queen’s Counsel.
QCs are selected by a panel of senior lawyers, retired judges and non-lawyers. QC competitions usually run once a year.
To apply, you must complete an application form, providing detailed evidence that you’ve demonstrated excellence in advocacy and possess specific competencies.
Applying to become a QC can take between three and five years. It can take several years to gather enough comprehensive evidence, so it is necessary to plan ahead.
As part of your application, you’ll also need to identify several assessors who have seen you perform in court and can support your application.
If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an interview with two members of the selection panel. They’ll ask questions relating to your application and you’ll also be assessed on the quality of your oral advocacy. For more information, visit: https://qcappointments.org
Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC)
The JAC selects candidates for judicial office in England and Wales and for some tribunals with UK-wide powers.
The JAC’s statutory duties are to select candidates solely on merit, to select only people of good character and to have regard to the need to encourage diversity in the range of persons available for judicial selection.
The JAC website advertises future judicial vacancies and the selection process for each vacancy. It provides guidance for each stage of the process.
On the website there is a section on how to assess if you are ready to make an application. You can also sign up to be a mock candidate to familiarise yourself with the selection process and to get specific feedback on your performance.
You can apply for support from the Targeted Outreach and Support Team, a programme designed to support and encourage diversity by targeting underrepresented groups (BAME, women, disabled and solicitor candidates) in recruitment for key court and tribunal roles. This involves completion of a short and simple application form.
Information on how to complete each stage of the application process can be found on the JAC website.
The JAC’s website also publishes feedback from the commissioners and successful candidates following each recruitment exercise.
You can to register to receive notifications directly from the JAC and sign up for the JAC monthly newsletter. For more information visit: https://judicialappointments.gov.uk
Pre-Application Judicial Education (PAJE)
This programme was launched in April 2019 and is the first joint initiative of the Judicial Diversity Forum, which is committed to delivering actions that attract applicants for judicial roles from all backgrounds to achieve a more diverse judiciary. The Judicial Diversity Forum is made up of the Judiciary, Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), The Bar Council, The Law Society of England and Wales and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
The aim of PAJE is to support individuals from different legal backgrounds, namely barristers, solicitors and CILEx, to feel more prepared, equipped and confident when considering and/or applying for a future judicial role.
The programme is targeted at the following four underrepresented groups:
- All Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic lawyers;
- All women lawyers;
- All lawyers with disabilities; and/or
- Solicitors and chartered legal executives (both with a litigation and non-litigation background) and those from a non-litigation background including academic and non-practising barristers
The course has been developed to build confidence and allay fears and to ensure individuals are aware of the essential characteristics of a judicial post. The course also allows for learning introspection and reflection.
The intention of the course is to ensure that individuals from the above targeted groups are better prepared for a judicial post. That they are able to self-identify their suitability before making any judicial application; that they are able or better equipped to discuss how their experience(s) relates to the skills required of a judge; and to assist with the transition to competency in post on appointment.
PAJE is a judge-led course run across England & Wales, consisting of four discussion groups run over a 4 to 8 week period. Successful applicants are expected to attend all four discussion groups in order to complete the course.
The course is designed to complement other initiatives like mentoring or application workshops. It has not been specifically designed to support the application process. Therefore, individuals are encouraged to seek the additional support from their professional body programmes and resources.
The Judicial College has developed a digital resource to assist individuals to develop their understanding of the role and skills required of a judge. The resource is available to everyone on an unlimited basis and contains a mix of videos and podcasts of judges talking about their work and the Judiciary. To access the resource visit the UK Judiciary You Tube page:
Visit the Bar Council website for further information about PAJE Course
Other Judicial Appointments
Tribunals are specialist judicial bodies, which decide disputes in a particular area of law.
Tribunals decide a wide range of cases ranging from workplace disputes between employers and employees to appeals against decisions of Government departments (including social security benefits; immigration and asylum; and tax credits).
Some tribunals are administered through local authorities (for example the School Exclusion Panels), some by government departments (e.g. Valuation Tribunals) and others through Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), an agency of the Ministry of Justice.
Tribunals often sit as a panel, incorporating a legally qualified tribunal judge, as well as panel members with specific areas of expertise. They hear evidence from witnesses but decide the case themselves. Tribunals have limited powers (depending on the jurisdiction of the case) to impose fines and penalties or to award compensation and costs. Other types of tribunal decisions might result in the allowance or disallowance of a benefit, leave or refusal to stay in the UK or the extent of provision of special educational help for school-age children.
Tribunal appointments can be held on a fee-paying or salaried basis. The Judicial Appointments Commission is normally responsible for tribunal appointments.
For more information visit: https://www.judiciary.uk/about-the-judiciary/who-are-the-judiciary/judicial-roles/tribunals
Coroners investigate deaths where the causes are unexplained or the person’s identity is unclear or unknown.
Coroners first sit as assistant Coroners before being appointed to the position of Coroner. Vacancies are advertised by local authorities.
To become a Coroner usually you need to be a:
- a qualified barrister or solicitor with at least 5 years’ experience in legal practice
- a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives with a minimum of 5 years’ qualified experience.
Local authorities appoint Coroners and assistant Coroners, with the consent of the Chief Coroner and the Lord Chancellor.
For more information visit: https://www.judiciary.uk/publications/how-to-become-coroner/
Specialist Bar Associations (SBAs) & Circuits
There are 24 Specialist Bar Associations (SBAs). SBAs focus on the interests of barristers within specific practice areas and geographical regions. SBAs help by promoting the interests of their members such as responding on matters such as regulation, proposals for change in practice areas or undertaking research to inform and create new initiatives. SBAs can also be a source of additional professional support through networking events, mentoring schemes and training. Below is a list of the 24 SBAs and links where available.
In addition, there are many other organisations for members of the Bar, tailored for specific needs and interests. Individuals are encouraged to consider joining groups that are of benefit to them, which meet their needs and provide support that they require.
The Bar in England and Wales is divided into six regions, commonly known as “Circuits”.
The Circuits provide a range of services and are an important source of support, advice and representation for barristers practising in those geographical areas. They focus on the needs of the local Bar.
The Circuits maintain lines of communication with all parts of the legal system and members of each Circuit are represented on the Bar Council through their Circuit Leader. Like the SBAs, the Circuits also provide important training and arrange social events for barristers.
The six Circuits are listed below and each has their own website providing information on how to join committees, details of events and what each geographical area has to offer its members.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) defines a young barrister as “less than seven years practising following the first date on which the barrister was eligible for a full practising certificate.”
Even if you are a newly qualified barrister in your 50s you would be equal to a ‘young’ newly qualified barrister in their 20s. Both individuals would experience similar challenges in the early years of practice. This is why the Bar Council’s Young Barristers’ Committee has produced “The Inside Guide to Life at the Bar”.
The 51-page document is a useful guide for young barristers. It aims to put all young barristers on an equal footing by making information readily available and easily accessible as they embark on their career and begin to build their practice.
The Inside Guide to Life at the Bar Covers a number of topics, which include: Establishing your Network; Working at the Employed Bar; Working in Chambers; Equality and Diversity; Finances and Administration; Building your Practice; Wellbeing; Parenting at the Bar; Handling Complaints; Training and Professional Development; The Rules; and Further Information and Support.
The Bar Council website also has further toolkits and information for young barristers, which individuals may find of assistance https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/support-for-barristers/young-bar.html