Retiring law firm partners to be offered short cut to senior judiciary

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14 November 2014

Lord Thomas

Thomas: “huge disadvantages” in diversity quotas

There is to be a drive to recruit retiring law firm partners to the senior judiciary in a bid to improve diversity, it has emerged.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said he is looking at a “more sensible way” of recruiting partners who retire early onto the High Court bench.

Speaking earlier this week, Lord Thomas said partners retire in their early 50s, the age at which the senior judiciary is recruited.

“We are going to run, early in the New Year, a competition for people who are not recorders who can then become deputy high court judges – the recent legislation permits us to do this – and we hope that will then recruit people to where the real problem is, which is the much more senior levels.”

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The LCJ said government lawyers would also be targeted, noting that in the senior civil service about 50% of staff are women and 10% from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

He said there was no reason why government lawyers could not “come and do a very good job in the judiciary” and were “a very, very important line of ensuring that the executive complies with the law”.

Lord Thomas said government lawyers made up a “much better pool” than law firm partners, where only 18-20% of partners were female.

Lord Thomas said he believed that imposing diversity quotas for judicial appointments, as recommended earlier this month by an independent report for the Labour Party, was “not necessary” as long as “positive action” was taken and “one appreciates that results will come and they are coming.”

The LCJ said there were “huge disadvantages in them and other proposals that, in a sense, upset what is probably regarded as the finest judiciary in the world”.

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