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Brian Doyle was appointed President of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales) in February 2014. He was called to the Bar in 1977 and appointed as a Fee-paid Chairman of the Employment Tribunals in 1994, becoming a Salaried Chairman in 2000, and then Regional Employment Judge, North West region in 2003. Prior to his salaried judicial career he was Professor and Dean of Law at the University of Liverpool.
“I knew the role of President was coming up with the announcement of the retirement of the former President. I signed up for the JAC email alert which informed me when the selection exercise was 'live'.
“When I was completing the application form the real hard work went into the self-assessment section. I found it particularly challenging in 2 ways: firstly, limiting myself to 250 words for each of the criteria and abilities and, secondly, making sure the information was evidence based. I spent quite a bit of time drafting and redrafting to ensure what I included was appropriate. It's a very good discipline to be able to express yourself succinctly.
“For prospective candidates I can't recommend enough the value of thinking months and even years ahead. You need to gather examples as you go along. It's no use racking your brain for examples with the blank application form in front of you. You need to make a note in your diary of your experiences and what you did. This approach is helpful when looking at any appointment or promotion in the judicial career structure.
“If you are seeking promotion then any experience you can gain is helpful. I had previously been a selector for JAC selection exercises. This included devising a qualifying test, assessing role plays and interviewing candidates. All this stood me in great stead for my own experience of selection.
“My selection day was actually a 2-hour slot. It included a presentation, scenario-based questions, and a panel interview. The balance of the different elements was struck absolutely perfectly by the JAC. It was very thorough, and appropriately so for a position at this level.
“I spent a lot of time preparing – you can completely rely on the advance information provided by the JAC. However, in my view, that's not the end – whether you are familiar with the jurisdiction you are applying to or not you can't underestimate the value of extra research and reading. Another tip is practice, practice, practice. I rehearsed and refined my presentation again and again until I was certain it was just under the required time. All these elements of preparation are important.
“I was drained after the 2 hours. As is natural for everyone I came away thinking 'I wish I had answered that question differently'.
“You can never fully know what a role will entail until you start it. Once selected and appointed, I shadowed the existing President of Employment Tribunals for a month before I succeeded him. During the shadowing I came across a number of challenges which I wouldn't necessarily have thought would come up. That is why the shadowing proved invaluable for me in preparing to take up the role. For a post at this level you are unlikely to get the same opportunity before you apply or are interviewed.
“Prior to becoming a salaried judge 14 years ago I was a professor of law and I sat as a fee-paid judge at that time for some 6 years. I would recommend this route to other legal academics. There is much about the academic role and the judicial role that is very similar. You have much expertise that makes you very suitable: marshalling evidence, analysing the facts, applying the law, and providing well-crafted and well-written judgments. I would certainly say that a legal academic who is interested in becoming a judge should not be discouraged.”