State school educated Master Kaye decided to become a lawyer from a young age. She was able to benefit from an early Access Scheme developed by Oxford University to give those who were state school educated a realistic chance of getting into Oxford University. Francesca tells us more about how she went from being a solicitor to a full time Chancery Master.

How did you get into the judiciary?

“I was a litigation partner in a London firm of solicitors before taking up a full-time appointment; I was appointed as a Deputy District Judge in 2003 and as a Deputy Chancery Master in 2016. I undertook these fee-paid roles whilst continuing to be a litigation partner. With a busy private practice, in most years I would not sit much more than the minimum number of sitting days each year. I found it personally rewarding to sit on a fee paid basis and believe it made me a better litigator and lawyer overall.” 

How was it transitioning from being a deputy master to a full-time master?

“Although supportive, my firm were initially apprehensive about me taking time out to sit as a judge, but it eventually saw the benefits. Being able to sit as a part-time judge allowed me build up my knowledge, experience and skills so that when I decided to apply for a full-time role, I was comfortable, confident and I felt ready. I took up my appointment as a full time Master on 1 May 2019.” 

What have you found the most difficult about the role?

“Having been a Deputy Chancery Master I knew what I was getting into. However, some aspects of a judicial role, such as judgment writing, are areas in which solicitors may feel that they have less experience in or that come less naturally. Solicitors may therefore find that whilst some of their skills are well suited to the role, others may need more development than perhaps those of equivalent barrister judges.” 

What have you found the most rewarding about the role?

“Since 2015, Masters have had trial jurisdiction. The work we do covers not just a range of areas of law and not just procedural hearings but also trials which provides an enormous breadth of work from complex high value business cases to traditional probate cases. From competition law and intellectual property to presumption of death and taxes. The breadth of work is both challenging and rewarding. You cannot be an expert in all the areas of work covered by the jurisdiction. Whoever you are you are always learning new things.”

How has becoming a judge changed your life?

“If you ask my family and friends they would say that I am happier and more content. I can’t say I work substantially less than I did before but, I do work differently.” 

What three bits of advice would you give to anyone thinking about becoming a judge?

  1. “Do not be put off by the application process, but do not under-estimate the time needed to complete the application and the need for evidence based answers both by the applicant and those providing references.” 
  2. “Whichever level of the judiciary you are considering, take advantage of any opportunities to sit in or meet with Judges working in that area. Even if there are no formal arrangements, most judges would be delighted to answer your questions. Whatever your background, sitting in will give you a whole new perspective on what cases look like to a Judge.”  
  3. “Although it is not always necessary to have prior judicial experience, personally I would recommend that you do try to get experience in a fee paid role before applying for a full-time role. Not only does it provide valuable judicial experience particularly around judge craft but it allows you to make an informed decision about applying for a full-time post.”   
  4. “And I’m going to add a fourth because I think this is important; do not be put off because you do not come from what you might perceive to be the more traditional judicial background. A lot of work has been done and continues to be done around diversity and inclusion in all its many forms. Although many would say that progress is slow I am an example of some of that progress.”