Guest blog: Martin Forde QC

12 October 2017

Martin Forde QC will shortly finish his term as the barrister member of the independent Judicial Appointments Commission. In this blog post he talks about what the role involves and encourages barristers to apply…

                                                   Martin Forde QC

In January, I will finish a highly-rewarding 6-year stint as the barrister member of the 15-strong Judicial Appointments Commission. The search for new professional member Commissioners starts today through open advertisement (link to be live from 16 October) and I'd really like to encourage fellow barristers to seriously consider this fascinating opportunity. 

I first heard about the position of JAC Commissioner from the then Chairman of the Bar, Peter Lodder QC, who encouraged me to apply. The open selection process was quite daunting - a self-assessment and detailed CV, followed by a head hunter interview, then a panel interview once I reached the short list. I was appointed, initially for 3 years, in 2012, alongside my fellow solicitor member, Alexandra Marks.

Although I had no prior expectations, I was immediately impressed by the abilities of the other commissioners - both lay and judicial - and was struck by the care taken to select candidates for recommendation, the testing of process and the dedication of the staff.

As well as overseeing selection panels and attending the monthly Board, Commissioners sit on various sub-committees, take part in speaking engagements and other activities aimed at helping the Commission drive greater diversity in the pools of candidate applying for judicial office.

A key role of a professional commissioner is to promote greater understanding of his or her profession and to explain the realities of practice such as aged debt, publicly-funded work, tax and VAT problems due to cash flow and minor infringements of the law such as driving offences - and to work alongside other commissioners to ensure these are reflected in making decisions on the suitability or merit of a candidate. I enjoy informing the process of the realities of professional life, explaining that talented individuals may not have had the access to referees of status or may be coy about informing their peers about the fact they have made an application for judicial office because of the impact on professional relationships.

One has to be diplomatic and well prepared whilst juggling a career. Selection exercises as an assigned commissioner can be time consuming and difficult to balance with a court practice but also incredibly rewarding. Commissioners are also supported by dedicated and professional staff of the JAC who are well experienced in helping commissioners juggle competing demands.

I have really enjoyed my 6 years and have been impressed by the Commission's real commitment to diversity against the background of merit. I would advise anybody applying to be my successor to understand that process in large judicial competitions is necessary and to recognise that we all want to achieve the same goal: the most talented individuals being appointed for the right reasons.

Candidates for these posts must be either a serving solicitor, barrister, or Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, with at least 5 years post qualification legal experience. 

View the advertisement and job description (link to be live from 16 October)