Paralegals to become eligible to apply for judicial appointment
Following discussions between the Institute of Paralegals and the Judical Appointments Commission during 2009 and 2010, the JAC has now confirmed that senior paralegals are eligible to apply to become judges of First-tier tribunals. The JAC is currently advertising vacancies of interest to paralegals.
The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is selecting for two roles in the coming months for which paralegals may apply under changes brought in by the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2008. These are Fee Paid Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber; and Fee Paid Immigration Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum Chamber.
It is not well known, but since the Act was passed in 2008, it has not been necessary to have formal legal qualifications for some judicial posts in tribunals. The Lord Chancellor can decide a person has gained experience in law to make them suitable for appointment. This means that paralegals may apply for some posts and it is for the Lord Chancellor to decide if they have sufficient legal experience to proceed in the JAC selection exercise.
James O’Connell, Chief Executive of the Institute of Paralegals, said:
“It is excellent that professional paralegals can apply to be First-tier Tribunal Judges if they meet the high standards required for judicial appointment. That won’t be true in every case, but experienced and senior paralegals should give it serious thought. It is yet another sign that paralegals are becoming recognised as professional legal practitioners.”
Judge David Pearl, JAC Commissioner, who sits as a judge of the Upper Tribunal, said:
“The JAC is excited by this broader approach to eligibility because we are committed to expanding the range of applicants for judicial appointment. We recognise the key role the Institute of Paralegals has played in supporting their members’ aspirations and helping to clarify the activities they can be involved in.
“Recommendations for appointment are made solely on merit and competition for judicial roles is high. Be honest with yourself about whether you are ready to apply. We are keen to hear from paralegals who can provide strong evidence-based examples of why their legal experience is as good as other eligible legal practitioners because this will enable the Lord Chancellor to make his decision.
“There are also a number of positions available in tribunals for non-legal professionals, which paralegals may well be able to apply for. The range of opportunities is wide, covering everything from social care to tax, farming to employment. Requirements for these positions are based on the nature of the tribunal, and candidates must be able to demonstrate the relevant professional experience. Keep an eye on the forthcoming exercises on the JAC website and check the eligibility criteria.”