A range of senior judicial positions are now open to CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) members for the first time, as new legislation came into force this week after the House of Lords passed it unopposed.
The statutory instrument amending the Judicial Appointments Order 2008, laid before Parliament last month, was described by justice minister Lord Bellamy, speaking in the House of Lords debate on the legislation, as an “important change” and “another step towards it being a lawyer’s merit, rather than their particular method of obtaining their legal qualification, that determines suitability for judicial appointment”.
Suitably qualified CILEX Lawyers can now apply to become Recorders and Upper Tribunal judges, where previously they were unable to apply for posts higher than district judge. CILEX Lawyers will now be able to preside in the Crown Court and on appeals in important tribunal matters.
Lord Bellamy recognised the impact that CILEX judges could have on improving the diversity of the judiciary saying, “CILEX offers an important route to increasing judicial diversity. It is interesting to note that 77% of CILEX fellows are women. Additionally, CILEX provides a non-graduate route to becoming a lawyer; it can and does attract candidates from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, with considerable benefits for social mobility.”
He also took the opportunity to further outline the government vision for CILEX, stating that CILEX “offers a non-graduate pathway to law, enabling professionals from varied backgrounds to have a fulfilling legal career” and that “the government’s ambition is to ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers preventing CILEX members progressing their careers.”
He referenced the Powers of Attorney Bill that will correct the anomaly that currently prevents CILEX Lawyers from certifying copies of Powers of Attorney, which passed its second reading in the House of Lords in June.
Speaking in that debate, Lord Bellamy said the changes were “part of the government’s general policy of facilitating CILEX members to carry out tasks and functions that other legal professionals, solicitors and barristers can carry out.”
CILEX Chair Professor Chris Bones said: “This is a ground-breaking legislative change that will help tackle a lack of diversity in our judicial system that currently sees women and ethnic minorities underrepresented at a senior level. It also demonstrates another important step forward for CILEX in achieving equality of opportunity for our members.
“The government recognises the important role CILEX has to play in the justice system and the specialist skills and fresh perspectives our members bring to the legal profession. We are making breakthroughs, with the Powers of Attorney Bill currently making its way through Parliament and a government commitment to changing the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme to make it easier for suitable CILEX members to become duty lawyers.
“Our members now have more opportunities than ever before. The trailblazing judges among the ranks of CILEX Lawyers have shown they are more than up to the job and with further senior positions now open to them, I hope to see them progress further and for even more of our members to see a judicial career is well within their reach.”