A flexible approach for a more representative judiciary

A campaign of “mythbusting”, flexible working opportunities and more judicial job shadowing are some of the recommendations of Baroness Neuberger’s report into judicial diversity.

The final report of the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity, chaired by Baroness Neuberger, rejects the use of diversity quotas and targets for judicial appointments. Instead, there should be a “fundamental shift in approach” towards diversity at all stages of a judicial career.

 The panel’s 53 recommendations include a proactive campaign of “mythbusting” to overcome false perceptions about the reality of becoming a judge, and the evolution of the Judicial Studies Board into a Judicial College to provide training for prospective judicial applicants. There should be more judicial job shadowing, law firms should encourage part-time service, and flexible working opportunities should be assumed for all judicial posts, with exceptions needing to be justified.

Judges should engage with schools and colleges to encourage students from under-represented groups, and the legal profession should actively promote judicial office among those currently not coming forward. Nick Green QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: “A vibrant and diverse Bar is very important to a vibrant and diverse judiciary.  “Women and men enter the profession in equal numbers and nearly 20 per cent of pupil barristers come from visible ethnic minority backgrounds. We have implemented several schemes which educate young people who aspire to become barristers.

“The retention of diversity is a priority. To that end the Equality and Diversity Code and Maternity Leave Guidelines promote flexible working arrangements and career breaks from practice.  “We run an annual seminar on ‘Managing Career Breaks’ and have appointed Diversity Mentors on every Circuit to assist career progression.”