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High Court appoints seven new judges — all Oxbridge educated

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Understaffed court snaps up leading QCs

The High Court is to get seven new faces, all of them Oxbridge-educated QCs.

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) announced yesterday that seven top barristers, of which six went to Oxford and one to Cambridge, will make the step up from bar to bench from next month.

The appointments are likely to push up the proportion of senior judges with a degree from one of England’s two ancient universities, which already stands at 71%.

Most of the new judges didn’t study law as undergrads at all. Employment judge Jennifer Eady QC and Martin Chamberlain QC — who is aged just 45 — both studied the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree.

Fellow Oxford grads Jeremy Johnson QC and Alison Foster QC studied maths and English respectively, while Pushpinder ‘Push’ Saini QC picked up two firsts at the world-renowned uni. Former social worker John Cavanagh QC studied law at both Oxford and Cambridge, while family lawyer Frances Judd QC only managed Cambridge.

Judd will sit in the Family Division, while all the rest have been assigned to the Queen’s Bench Division.

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While there are no solicitors or academics in the bunch, there are 10 more appointments due to be announced by the JAC shortly.

The High Court has been facing a recruitment crisis over the past few years, with top QCs increasingly unwilling to take the steep pay cut involved in becoming a judge. The JAC had 25 places to fill this time around, but has only managed to find 17 qualified candidates (of which seven were unveiled yesterday).

In June 2019, the Ministry of Justice announced “temporary recruitment and retention allowance” that will bump High Court judges’ salaries by almost £50,000 on top of their £190,000 basic pay.

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109 Comments

Anonymous

Fair enough, we want the best. The bigger problem is how the quality of appointments can be maintained when the pay package is getting so bad.

Anonycounsel

The pay package is fine. I doubt there are many barristers (even commercial silks) who would be that much better off in private practice. The salary is very substantial and the pension entitlement is generous as well.

Anonymous

I’m afraid you grossly underestimate the pay at top commercial sets.

Anonymous

He definitely does.

A fairly average QC costs in the region of £10K a day, after chambers fees, taxes etc. that still leaves £5,500-6,500 a day net. At this rate, working 5 days a week for 40 weeks per year will leaves them with £1.3M.

The salary for the High Court starts at around £180-200K per year.

You can see now why there is an issue with recruitment.

Anonymous

Though still the Brick Court and Blackstone barristers felt the salary was sufficient.

Anonymous

12.31, juniors 3 years in make more than a judge.

Anonymous

Yep you are delusional. I was doing more at 5 years call than a HCJ and that is not remotely unusual. My current leader charges £1,500 per hour and is always busy. The maths does itself.

But there is an important further point here we shouldn’t lose sight of, which is that joining the HC bench has *always* involved a very significant drop in income for most new judges. People did it because of the sense of career progression/personal achievement, the desire to put something back into the system/public service, and to work a little less hard or have a more predictable lifestyle as they entered their late fifties or sixties. All those non-financial hard-to-measure inducements have gone out of the window now, as judges are now treated by HMCTS like any other employee and worked like dogs. And then there was the pension. It used to be the case that the judicial pension was superb, either a life-saver for those who had made inadequate provision, or a lovely cherry on top for those that had. Now it is ordinary and – above all – taxable as part of the lifetime allowance. Those that *have* made proper provision are actually *worse off* than if they had not done so and must renounce the judicial pension altogether if they want to avoid punitive tax charges. Several new appointees have been forced to do that. This is why far fewer want the job now. Until this is addressed, the recruitment crisis will continue.

Random passer-by

Many now go to the bench to get the Knighthood or Lordship and prestige, before jumping back into the private sector to work in international arbitration. As an arbitrator you can earn millions for essentially a part time gig. Only downside is having to travel a fair bit in your 60s, but costs are covered by the parties.

Anonymous

Your leader? Are you in a cult?

I know sometimes working in law-firms feels like…

Anonymous

Leader = the person who leads you when you’re a junior on a matter. It’s pretty standard terminology.

Anonymous

You literally could not be more wrong.

Anonymous

Lol a commercial silk would comfortably smash £500k, most £1m plus.

Anonymous

I’m 2 years post pupillage and out earning high court judges. It is not unusual in commercial sets

Anonymous

Why did I get down voted for this? This wasn’t a humble brag, it is an anonymous post. I was just responding to OP who suggested High Court judges pay is comparable to commercial silk earnings.

Realist

It’s Legal Cheek: populated by a mixture of genuinely helpful people, and morons. It must have been one of the latter who voted you down. Please don’t take it personally. Thanks for commenting, and I hope you’re not put off in the future by the moron.

The Moron

Fuck off, I can downvote who I like.

Curious

Serious Q: what are earnings in the years post-pupillage like at the commercial bar? I can’t seem to find info on it but asking in person seems kinda off. Anonymously on legal cheek though…

Anonymous

No one at the bar likes to talk precise figures. Many of the elite commercial sets guarantee that you’ll make £100k in the first year post pupillage.

I can’t speak for others, but when billing hourly I am usually charged out at £100-£150 per hour. For court attendance, the aim is to make at least £500 per day. So you can see how this starts to add up.

First year post-pupillage I billed somewhere around £130k, second year post pupillage approx £200k. From that I have to pay chambers contribution (which varies from 12% to 18%).

There are good days and bad days, good months and bad months.

There are some barristers who are similar level of call and experience to me who are earning more than I do and others who make less.

So much of it comes down to luck too. You can have a bad few months and then suddenly land a very lucrative brief.

OXFORD BA HISTORY

Of course they will be Oxbridge educated. Only the best should be judges.

Anonymous

going to Oxbridge does not equate to being the best, it just mean that you are good academically. There is also the practical side, skills and knowledge that Oxbridge does not prepare you for.

Even going to Edinburgh uni, UCL or Kings is great for a judicial career

Anonymous

Might actually make you a better, more personable and more practical lawyer than some Oxford Classics robot. Being detached from the world up in that fortress for 3 years is not always a good thing.

Anonymous

Classics is 4 years and any detachment is down to the requirement for hard work.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing if there were more detachment in other universities, because arsing around for three years certainly will not make you a better, more personable and more practical lawyer.

Anonymous

Oxbridge is full of pretentious overblown bums who recite Shakespearean poems rather than communicating with clients and solving problems. Bristol, Durham and LSE routinely breed better lawyers.

Commercial boi

I didn’t go to Oxbridge, but went to one of the Universities you listed. As a commercial solicitor, with the exception of tax and international arbitration, Oxbridge is not a requisite, in fact nerds should be excluded really and there should be even fewer from Oxbridge as the work is not that complex. However the bar is something else. It has to be the best, and these are people with no outside interests who live and breathe the law. I want my barrister to be the best, as the law is decided in the court room. However if we are talking about corporate monkeys or real estate lawyers, it doesn’t really matter.

Anonymous

Clearly a barrister wannabe. Enjoy breathing the mould in the courtrooms. Barristers are actors who play to an audience – the jury. The real work is done outside of court. There’s a reason 90% of disputes are settled extra-judicially – you can never trust the jury to buy a barrister’s BS and it’s always a coin toss.

Anonymous

Given only criminal trials feature a jury, 90% of what you said is tripe.

Barista

I was thinking that today during my closing speech to a commercial chancery jury.

Commercial boi

Haha.

Curious

>”[…] with the exception of tax and international arbitration […]”

I suspect that I understand your logic for tax: I imagine it’s highly academic, and relies on absorbing a vast amount of very dull information. Why international arbitration (”IA”), though? Other than investor-state disputes, which I believe are the minority, IA is much the same as high-value multi-track litigation in the Commercial Court, but with ICC/LCIA/etc. rules rather than CPR, surely?

Commercial boi

International arbitration seems to attract people with very high academic levels. It may have to do with the fact that many practitioners of international arbitration are advocates so they are essentially competing against barristers. The City firms offer a one stop shop when it comes to arbitration. In addition, you mentioned investment treaty disputes as complex. I agree. And you will notice there aren’t really many international arbitration practitioners who just focus on commercial disputes. They tend to have a practice that spans all international disputes including investor-state disputes. Masters degrees are a given, and these tend to be from the most prestigious schools (Oxbridge, LSE, NYU, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Geneva, Leiden) after a top class performance on an undergrad degree. Corporate/commercial areas are really less academic, and you don’t need more than a handful of bods in your team, who are essentially passengers at the senior level bringing in zero work themselves. We tend to hide these geeks away from clients as the lack of social skills is really something to behold at times. The rest is organisation and soft skills.

Anonymous

Bristol and (especially) LSE are full of self-important career whores lacking in character or personality. All they care about is a mediocre job in a mediocre firm doing mediocre work, and they’re willing to act like absolute losers to get there.

Anonymous

It’s funny how deluded these students are. Working in a respected firm ensures a varied, international career with prospects of lateral moves into banking, investment funds/management, consultancies, in-house, etc. The earning potential far outstrips that of a silk of equal seniority. Not to mention the fact you actually talk to people, instead of bring stuck in a courtroom with equally obnoxious oxbridge kids (i.e. the judge and opposing counsel).

Anonymous

The shocker is that big clients rely far more on a solicitor than a barrister. Barristers are pretentious twats whose only job is to make fools of themselves in court and harass female co-workers in between instructions.

Anonymous

Evidence?

Anonymous

I’m sensing a lot of repressed bitterness here. Dw though, you can always try for pupillage after a TC. Seriously though, if that is your understanding of/attitude towards counsel, you won’t make much of a solicitor, especially if you ever have to go near litigation.

Anonymous

The idea that Bristol is comparable to Oxford is hilarious

Anonymous

Yeah. Bristol actually produces quality lawyers who you can have a conservation with, not self-absorbed Hugoes who ramble on about XV century poems. That sh*t don’t help in court.

Anonymous

My experience with Oxbridge humanities graduates working in law is that they are all convinced they’ll be an MP at the next election. Self absorbed and pretentious, but actually quite good conversationalists so long as you find what boris should’ve done an interesting topic (I do fwiw)

Anonymous

Not always but guess you didn’t make the cut snowflake x

Anonymous

Judging by the level of censorship under articles, the LC editors really hate their readers

Outside the box

Nice to see nepotism is still alive and well!

Anonymous

Where? Are you suggesting graduates from the best universities in the country are getting in but aren’t smart enough? Retard.

Anonymous

Nepotism is appointing your relatives

Google it

Outside the box

Are you privy to who appoints judges and the applicants family status? Thought not. You may find out if you google it.

Anonymous

If you can’t accept that the best jobs require the best people, you need to get in the bin! They are educated at those institutions for a reason! Don’t be so salty.

Anon

Yes that’s reason is money…

Anonymous

Yes, yes, the reason you have a crap degree is because of money.

Chip

Hello from your shoulder!

Anonymous

Can’t even speak English…

Anonymous

God, the levels of jealousy are through the roof here. Yes, some people are smarter than others. Yes, those people are entitled to positions of responsibility in our society. Bad luck, diddums – whatever mummy told you, you aren’t a special snowflake and are no better than anyone else.

Anonymous

It’s not the Oxbridge issue which is worrying as clearly they go for the best qualified candidates and entry to Oxbridge is open to all. The issue is that once again these are all barristers and the fact that QCs aged 45/46 have applied suggests that they didn’t have much of a practice and prefer the purple parachute. The JAC is completely unfit for purpose with its biased recruitment processes and I constantly ask for it to be overhauled or abolished to no avail

Anonymous

Or maybe, and this might be a surprise, some people who really really like law don’t care just about money, want the chance to go the UKSC and know they need to start early…

Anonymous

Seems unlikely. It’s just barrister bias and escaping from failing practice.

Anonymous

Are you having a laugh? Pushpinder Saini and Martain Chamberlain failing? They are two of the top silks at the bar… Brilliant QCs going to the bench young is not especially unusual and certainly not a sign of low standards. To give but one example, Singh LJ went to the high court at 39 and is now a very good CoA judge…

Anonymous

The OP was now doubt a chip on their shoulder student from some fourth tier institution of which we have never heard.

Anonymous

Lord Sumption failing? Yeah that guy who went from the Bar straight to the Supreme Court. Also described as the “brain of Britain”. I imagine taking on the Berezovsky v Abramovich case meant his practice was failing.

Anonymous

Purple parachute. From Blackstone. You know nothing, Jon Snow.

Anonymous

That is because you have no idea what you are talking about.

Kirkland NQ

Not Harvard?

Anonymous

F*** off, yank.

Anonymous

Harvard is a finishing school for the best from Oxbridge, dumbo.

Equalities FTW

High Court judges should reflect the general composition of society in order to be truly effective in their role. There should therefore be a preponderance of state school educated appointees, and substantial numbers from former polytechnics. At least 10% should be black, 25% should have a criminal conviction, and 20% should have an IQ below 90. Am I doing this right?

Anonymous

No, even your trolling is piss poor. Whatever you are doing, it isn’t right. Go back to revising for your first year exams.

City trainee

Hmm, almost noon. Time for a Juul rip and a Tommy tank methinks

Otunde Kobalawe

Why are all the High Courts judges still talking down from there IVORY TOWERS in 2019?They are all the old white men in their red dressing outfit where are the brothers and sisters with the COMMON SENSE???? If you ask them to tell you about the popular music they will tell you they don know who is Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder???

Anonymous

Good point well made.

Otunde Kobalawe

I see you are trying to take the monkey out of me but we will see how is laughing when Boris Johnson has sort ed this all out!

Anonymous

Common sense, the last refuge of the desperate. Very popular course at the University of Life I’ve heard.

Billy

Why they only qcs? Discrimination against non-qcs.

Skadden NQ

Why only people with legal training? Discrimination against laymen.

Anonymous

Why only people who are alive? Discrimination against the dead.

Anonymous

Why only people. Why can’t my hamster be a judge if it wants to be.

Ano:

I identify as a judge…so there

Anon

Your hamster may do a better job.

Oscar

Elitism continues in this country. At least 1 or 2 places in the supreme court should be reserved for people who haven’t gone to university or even been barristers or lawyers. Life skills are just as, if not more, important than academic or professional qualifications.

Anonymous

And 20% of surgical places should be reserved for people who haven’t gone to university or even been doctors. Life skills are just as, if not more, important than academic or professional qualifications or knowing what the fuck you are actually doing .

Anonymous

Idiot. Being a judge doesn’t require 12 years of vigorous study and practice. It simply requires an historic understanding of the common law and being in tune with society today, and the grievances of all the major social and political groups.

Anonymous

That isn’t a Judge’s job. The Judicial oath is to apply the law as made by Parliament without fear or favour. The views of social groups and political groups are completely irrelevant. It is parliament that is supreme not social groups or political groups.

There was a clear majority to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis based medication, licensed in many countries but not the UK. The Misuse of Drugs Act stated hower that any doctor who did so comitted the offence of supplying a control drug. A judge or Magistrate had no power to dismiss a charge because the judge correctly thought that most people would think it was wrong that a doctor would be guilty of an offence punishable by 14 years as that was not the law made by parliament . The parliament then amended the regulations to allow home office licensed cannabis based medication prescription. It would now be the Judge’s duty to direct an aquittal as parliament changed the law. That is a matter for parliament to decide not the judiciary.

If judges acted as you suggest then we would have a judical dictatorship. The law would be whatever an unelected judge thought people would approve of rather than what an elected government has said that it is. The entire point of the rule of law is that a judge must apply the law even if he personally thinks it is wrong or unfair and even if he thinks most people would also think it wrong. The whole point of a democracy is that if we don’t like the laws a majority government makes we can vote them out. We can’t vote judges out.

The fact that you haven’t understood the rule of law or parliamentary sovereignty rather disproves your point .

Anonymous

Why stop there?

At least one of the places should go to an illiterate binman or binwoman. Two places should be occupied by baristas (and we should look further than the elitist institutions i.e. Costa or Nero). Thirdly and most importantly, in order to ensure the greatest possible level of diversity the president’s role should be reserved for a career criminal who is not only indifferent to the law but POSITIVELY DESPISES IT

Oscar

Don’t take the p*ss.

Judges need to reflect society. Politicians have realised that and MPs are starting to come from a wider range of backgrounds and jobs. If they can do it, the legal profession can do as well. It’s miles behind.

Anonymous

Why do judges need to reflect society? I know the diversity preachers spout that, but why should we prefer societal make up over ability?

Anonymous

Unconscious Bias… look it up

Judges should reflect society, and why does it have to be mutually exclusive? This obsession with only Oxbridge and the tripe spewed that they are the best and should be deemed worthy.

What about the people that self select other Unis than Oxbridge?

The fanboy/devotees need to get a grip

Anonymous

I agree. There’s something to be said for the common law lawmaker being able to understand the society they live in. Doesn’t mean they have to be black, muslim or female (for example). However, being from a walk of life which understands the societal fabric can help. A judge doesn’t need to be a genius with 160 IQ. He needs to understand the implications of his decision on society.

Anonymous

Yes, and I think it is safe to say that the current and immediate past Parliaments have utter hashed up this country and its future. Clearly a more representative Parliament has worked very well.

Anonymous

See my post above on the rule of law. I am diabetic and have neve damage to my feet. My doctor prescibed me Prregabalin (a class a drug) as in her clincal judgement that was the best pain relief for me. I did not commit the offence of possession of a controllled drug nor did i comit the offence of drug driving by driving to court today with hgh levels of a class a drug in my blood, nor did my GP commit the offence of supply of a controled drug as she was licenced to prescribe that class a drug to me under the Medicines Act. But had her judgment been that i would have been better of being prescribed a class b drug both she and i would have been guily of criminal offences That is bonkers and i’m very glad parliament changed the law on that point. But that should be decided by parliament not the judiciary.

Anonymous

Lol.

Anonymous

“The appointments are likely to push up the proportion of senior judges with a degree from one of England’s two ancient universities”.

Great insight.

Tommy

Wait for my new exclusive on the legal implications of a lawyer publishing photo with a cat! Lots of exciting insights coming soon.

Anonymous

Stop talking rubbish! There are no fairly average silks charging 10 k refreshers a day

TommyBoy

Exactly, is a common or garden PI/Family/[Whatever area you think is average] silk charging 10k a day? ….. Or is it an average commercial silk?

Anonymous

Bristol grads are better in bed. #Eve

Anonymous

Well, there is some solace in being an Oxbridge reject.

Adam

I hope so!

Anonymous

Funny thing is that Oxbridge genuinely does not breed the best lawyers all the time. It might have a good proportion of talented grads, but so do the majority of RG. The Bar is, however, irrationally biased towards Oxbridge solely because it is not acceptable for a barrister to have an alma mater different than that of the QC interviewing them, or for them to have (for example) an American accent. No matter, commercial US top whack offer better earnings and equal treatment for all talented grads.

Anonymous

But the best Chambers are not looking for Oxbridge. They are looking for the top 10% of Oxbridge. Big difference.

Anonymous

The bottom half of Oxbridge is fairly meh. Not much difference from the RG.

Anonymous

I don’t see why going to Oxbridge means you are automatically more academic and brighter. You get your A Level results at 18…. different people develop in different ways and for some academic development takes longer.

Anonymous

That’s a tricky one, it may be something to do with having 40,000 well qualified applicants for 6000 places and then putting a lot of effort into picking the best of them.

As opposed to being the sort of place which has to offer inducements, free computers, fee reductions and so on in a desperate attempt to get bums on seats.

Liberturd Leftie

Of it could be that people pick those are most like/the same as them as they are comfortable with that type of person.

Simples

Anonymous

Or they want the best of the best and it makes economic sense to efficienctly piggy back off the entrance system of the top unis. More simple(s).

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