Being a Recorder is worthwhile and makes you a better lawyer, according to 3 Recorders who have gone on to become Deputy High Court or Circuit judges.
Ahead of the launch of a new Recorder competition in February 2017, the JAC has caught up with successful candidates, now experienced judges, to find out how their careers have progressed since their Recorder appointments.
Barrister Michael Fordham QC and solicitor Edward Murray were appointed Recorder in 2009. They are enthusiastic about the benefits of taking on the role, saying that as well as being rewarding, working on the other side of the bench gave them insights that helped them in their day jobs.
Edward Murray says being a Recorder gave him a feeling of involvement in important matters: “There is an opportunity to make a positive difference. It also broadened my perspective and improved my analytical and communications skills as a lawyer.”
Michael Fordham adds: “It’s a public service, and it matters. It has a bit of a ‘good for you’ vibe. Things look different from the other side of the fence. It brings a new perspective to what we do as advocates.”
The part-time Recorder role is often a first step to a position as a more senior judge. Candidates are not expected to have judicial experience. Training is given, an experience that Michael Fordham found invaluable: “The training we got was fantastic. I kept some of the best course materials and take them with me when I sit. More than once I have found the answer there to some problem which crops up.”
Both are keen to encourage solicitors and barristers from all backgrounds to apply, and recommended that candidates prepare before applying, by shadowing a judge, observing a court room or speaking to someone already in the role.
Solicitor Edward Murray is especially keen to see more solicitors on the bench: “do not underestimate the commitment required, but if you are serious in your preparation, you will find the path to be navigable and, following appointment, you will find the work of a Recorder to be tremendously rewarding.”
Sarah Lynch was also appointed in 2009 and is now a Circuit judge. She says solicitors should be open to the idea of becoming a Recorder. She says: "The Recorder role was hugely useful for me. I became instantly more up to date on the law. It gave a new dimension to my practice in terms of how I prepared cases. You look at things differently when you’ve sat on the bench.
"Being a recorder was very useful preparation for becoming a full-time judge. I was much more confident, and in terms of evidence it was valuable to have had that experience of sitting as a recorder.
"The best thing about being a recorder was the confidence it gave me in my own practice as a solicitor, looking at a case from a different perspective, looking at the law, looking at how to formulate a judgment."
Read the full updated Recorder stories
Rachim Singh solicitor and Recorder also talks about his legal life, published in The Law Society Gazette