NIJAC is pleased to have been able to contribute an article to the Summer 2023 issue of The Writ, the Digital Magazine of the Law Society of Northern Ireland. In the article our Head of Assessment, Transformation and Quality, Andrew Millar, discusses the new Judicial Profile, recent developments, and forthcoming recruitment schemes.
The article is provided below. The full The Writ Digital Magazine can be accessed through the following link - https://www.lawsoc-ni.org/DatabaseDocs/new_5803080__writ_241_summer_2023_final.pdf
Andrew Millar outlines recent changes made at the The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission, the role the Law Society has played, and future opportunities.
The most significant change has been the recent introduction of a Judicial Profile and the use of a Person Specification to outline the abilities sought in prospective judicial office holders. Central to making changes was consultation with the Law Society and Bar Council. NIJAC is most appreciative of the contribution of the Society, through its President Mr Brian Archer and Senior Vice-President Mrs Brigid Napier, Council members, practising Solicitors and the Society’s Executive Team. This level of engagement proved enlightening and invaluable in the development of the new Judicial Profile.
The Judicial Profile is an overall framework which provides a picture of what is required of those to be appointed to judicial office. It has two overarching areas:
1. Skills & Attributes, which includes the criteria Knowledge & Expertise, Intellectual Capacity and Exercising Judgment, and;
2. Behaviours & Effectiveness, which includes the criteria Collaborating Effectively, Communicating Effectively and Managing Effectively.
The Person Specification is based on the wider Judicial Profile but uses only those criteria which apply to the specific judicial office. For example, the recent Deputy Statutory Officer scheme did not use ‘Managing Effectively’. This was because analysis of the role identified that it was not substantively present. This ability to mould the criteria to the specific needs of each office leads to the creation of a Person Specification for each judicial office.
What this means for applicants
The bespoke Person Specification should focus applicants on the demands of the role. This may increase the need for applicants to research the role and present their best evidence showing how they meet the Skills & Attributes and Behaviours & Effectiveness identified in the Person Specification. That increased readiness will lead to better prepared and more effective applications.
Guidance provided by the Commission
The range of information available is extensive but we would particularly recommend you seek out information in respect of the new Judicial Profile and Person Specification through this link - The New Judicial Profile. Here you will find a downloadable guide, infographic and information videos. General information on how the process works is available through this link – The Selection Process. Additional information on other opportunities such as the Judicial Shadowing Scheme can be accessed here - Before you Apply
Appointments to the Commission
NIJAC has recently welcomed the renewal of appointment of the Law Society’s nominee, Mr Michael Robinson, as a NIJAC Commissioner. NIJAC is also pleased that Mr Bernard Brady KC has been appointed to his first term as a NIJAC Legal Commissioner. NIJAC looks forward to working closely with both Legal Commissioners, and their respective representative bodies, in the coming years.
Michael has recently spoken extensively on the subject of Judicial Appointments and in particular how they operate in Northern Ireland, at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Goa in March 2023. Michael remarks that “…having worked with NIJAC from 2006 both as a Law Society direct representative and laterally as a Judicial Appointments Commissioner, I have seen considerable changes in the selection of members of the Judiciary. There have been great leaps forward from the “tap on the shoulder” days of old. NIJAC is a welcoming organisation which continuously monitors and strives to improve access to judicial appointment, blind to background but open to merit. At all stages its ambition is to welcome applicants and put in place a process which ensures that appointment is on merit and helps those applying to achieve their very best. The most recent changes in respect of the Profile are designed precisely to further that aim.”
NIJAC expects to launch recruitment schemes for County Court Judges, fee-paid Employment Judges for the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal and will also be seeking Legally Qualified Members for the Appeal Tribunals. These schemes are expected to launch between September 2023 and March 2024. Forthcoming Opportunities.
Over the course of the next year NIJAC will be reviewing other processes. Most significantly for potential applicants will be our reviews of shortlisting and feedback. NIJAC will continue to consult and we look forward to working with the Law Society and its Members, and other legal professionals to ensure our work continues to be well informed and evidence based. Anyone interested in seeking a judicial appointment, or even those with a casual interest in how the system operates, are encouraged to visit our website at nijac.gov.uk.