Secretary of State, Elizabeth Truss MP gave a speech this week, celebrating 100 years of women in law, which she said was a “call to arms“.

The aim of the speech was to highlight a new focus inside the legal profession which would aim to source future judges on the bases of talent and potential, rather than hours spent at the office or the court room.

In order to do this, she put forward four proposals:

1. A Top 100 Talent competition.

  • In the next Recorder competition, expected to launch in February 2017, we will appoint judges from the top 100 talent.
  • No longer will they be required to have experience in any particular type of law, be it crime, family or civil.
  • Nor does it matter where they live, as applicants will no longer be bound to a specific location. We will simply be looking for the best 100 applicants from across England and Wales.

2. Opening up the High Court.

  • We are also going to make it easier for our top talents to go straight into the High Court. The next recruitment campaign will for the first time open the door to a wider pool of ‘direct-entry candidates’ – individuals who while exceptionally talented have not had previous judicial experience. These may be academics, in-house counsel or perhaps Magic Circle solicitors who spend more time in boardrooms than courtrooms.

3. Quicker progress for Deputy High Court judges

  • I also want to do more for the Deputy High Court bench – highly-valued individuals from the legal sector who sit part- time in the High Court. They are a vital source of talent for the senior judiciary. And I want to make it easier for the best of them who wish to seek promotion to make quicker progress.
  • This is why I have agreed with the senior judiciary and Judicial Appointments Commission that a new fast-track process will let them apply for full High Court office as soon as they are ready.
  • The process of selection will be more straightforward. While merit and ability must always be paramount, experience as a Deputy High Court judge will carry far greater weight than at present.

4. Potential

  • I want also to talk about potential. I have already explained that we will always select our judges on the basis of merit. However, I feel – and I know the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Kakkar – agree, that the assessment of merit needs to include an assessment of potential.
  • I think that future recruitment campaigns should make clear to all candidates that their potential counts. You should not be put off just because your career so far hasn’t taken you into a courtroom because we will offer training and support where that is necessary.
  • What matters should be your potential to preside as a judge in court – to develop your ‘judgecraft’ as it is known.

What do you think? Will these measures encourage more women to enter the legal profession?

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