Eagles eye bench

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The Independent Online
Nearly three-quarters of City solicitors would be interested in becoming judges if the changes envisaged in Lord Woolf's report on civil justice were to create more judicial positions for which they were suited and a greater flexibility in their duties and commitments, according to a survey by the City of London Law Society. Even if no changes were made, 38 per cent said they would at least consider applying for judicial appointment.

Lord Woolf's final report, published earlier this year, recommended greater flexibility in deploying the judiciary and emphasised the need for greater use of specialists as well as more case management by judges. The City of London Law Society, which published its findings on 17 October, has long argued that City solicitors are ideally suited to tackle the change in demands of a more pro-active, commercial and practical judiciary.

Only a few City solicitors currently sit as recorders or circuit judges, while none has reached the High Court. The society believes that this poor showing has much to do with the inflexible system of judicial appointment and training, coupled with heavy partnership responsibilities. "By the time potential candidates reach the stage in their career when they could devote sufficient time, most have left it too late to apply," it says.

Anthony Pugh-Thomas, chairman of the society, added that the survey clearly demonstrated that "City solicitors are willing to give their time and energy to play a part in the judicial process, if only the system were more flexible in its approach. The commercial, practical and legal skills of experienced litigation solicitors in the City could not be more appropriate for coping with the demands of the modern judiciary."

Martin Roberts, the Masons partner who compiled the survey, said: "It is a tragedy that the huge pool of highly talented specialists likely to be retiring from City practices in their fifties will be heading for the golf course instead of the judges' bench"n