Crown court judge, high court judge, recorder, tribunal judge
Judges hear evidence in criminal and civil courts, make rulings and pass sentences based on the information presented during cases.
Salary range: £112,500 to £250,000
How to become a judge
You can get into this job through:
- official appointment
Volunteering and experience
You can get valuable experience and insights into the work of a judge through the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme. This may help if you later apply for selection to become a judge.
You normally have to be a qualified legal professional, with at least 7 years’ experience in law-related work to join.
If you have been on the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme, you can apply for a place on the Judicial Mentoring Scheme. This encourages applications from people who are currently under-represented in the judiciary. For example:
- ethnic minorities
- lawyers with a state school education
Judges are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission. You’ll need to apply to them to be considered for selection.
To apply, you must:
- be a qualified solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive
- have worked as a legal professional for between 5 and 7 years, depending on the type of judge you want to be
- meet nationality requirements
Common starting roles include district, recorder and tribunal judges. For certain other judicial roles, you can apply if you’re an experienced legal academic, or trademark or patent attorney.
You must successfully complete a number of application stages to get through to shortlisting by the Commission. You’ll then be invited to attend an assessment and selection day, which will include interviews.
If you are appointed as a full-time judge, you will not be able to return to legal practice.
Part-time judges, usually found in the lower courts, for example a tribunal or district judge, are paid a fee for each court session and are expected to sit for at least 15 sessions a year. Fee-paid judges can continue to practise law, providing there is no conflict of interest.
You can find out more about how to become a judge from:
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
- active listening skills
- the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
- knowledge of English language
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- excellent verbal communication skills
- the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
- leadership skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- pass enhanced background checks
- pass security checks
- be a UK, Republic of Ireland or Commonwealth citizen
You must retire when you reach 70.
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties may include:
- preparing for trials by reading papers submitted by legal teams
- hearing civil, family and criminal cases
- listening to evidence from witnesses, defendants and victims
- advising juries and legal teams on points of law
- passing sentences on conviction and imposing other penalties
- reaching decisions in tribunals, for example on employment disputes or immigration cases
- helping sides to find agreement in civil cases before proceedings begin
- taking expert opinion, for instance in custody or child welfare cases
- hearing appeals and reviewing decisions of lower courts
- writing reports, giving reasons for rulings
- keeping up to date with legal developments
You could work in a court or in an office.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.
Career path and progression
There are structured career development routes in the judiciary, which allow you to move from fee-paid sessional roles in the lower courts through to paid positions in the upper courts.
For example, with experience, you might move from deputy district judge or recorder to become a permanent district judge, circuit judge or high court judge. Beyond that, you could be appointed to the court of appeal.
You can also specialise in particular divisions of the judiciary, like the family courts or employment tribunals.