The JAC held a seminar in Newcastle to encourage and inform candidates about the 2014/15 DDJ(Civil) competition and shared some very helpful insights that I have tried to capture and highlight below.
DJ Chris Simmonds told a great story about how the DJ bench are the engine room for the judiciary. He talked about what it was really like sitting as a DJ, the challenges, the myths and the great support. He also told us about career development and that 5 of his DJ colleagues had applied and moved to the circuit bench.
Sarah Gane from the JAC then shared some thought provoking statistics: they recruit between 500 & 600 candidates each year for the main judicial posts as well as for 29 MOJ tribunals. She also encouraged the audience to investigate and consider other sitting options as well as the MOJ tribunals. Candidates could make very positive contributions and gain excellent experience via these positions. Each year they process in the region of 5,000 applications for c500 (10:1) posts and it appears that competition is increasing. The two most recent competitions MHRT and Police Appeals saw success ratios of 22:1 & 27:1 respectively.
The last DDJ competition had over 1,000 candidates for the 122 posts (8:1) but they didn’t fill all the vacancies on the NE Circuit. About 50% of the104 posts available in this competition are for posts in the midlands and above. Candidates can apply to any circuit they wish, but due to financial pressures it cannot be assumed that all expenses will be paid. Keep an eye on the T&Cs.
Referees: for this competition you will only be required to nominate one personal referee in addition to your professional referee. If your Senior Partner, Line Manager or Head of Chambers is not best placed to provide an evidenced based reference for you do speak to the JAC to discuss and agree an alternate. Do talk to your potential referees and make sure they can provide appropriate evidence of their experience of your qualities and abilities.
Character: read the guidelines carefully and ensure you disclose all relevant matters, failure to do so will be seen as you lacking integrity.
Application Form: give specific examples of how you demonstrate the competencies.. It will take much more time than you think to complete a strong application that will stand out. The most recent forms for other fee paid competitions can be downloaded now so you can understand what information will be required and start drafting! Some tips.
Qualifying Tests: this will be available for you to do from wherever you wish probably between 8am & 8pm on Wednesday 26 November. The test has been set by judges, is deliberately intended to be time pressured and has been pre-tested. It has been designed to test behaviour and judgement not just legal knowledge. Approximately 50% of the test will test your legal knowledge and the other half how you would react in different situations. It has evolved from the most recent DJ (Civil) 2013 test – so make sure you try that test. It will be a multiple-choice and there is an IT helpline if you have any problems or concerns do phone them if you need to.
They will short-list from the test down to 250-300 candidates (depending on geographical spread) and from pre-registration they are expecting in the region of 1500 applicants.
Role Play – you will be given some reading and then a panel of 3 (1 judicial and 2 lay) will observe you hearing some actors who will respond to your questions and directions. The role play starts as soon as you enter the room. The panel will be looking to assess you against the Q&As and looking for evidence of how you perform and demonstrate them.
Interview – again before a panel of 3, again they will probe the Q&As, but not necessarily all of them depending on the evidence in your application form and from your referees.
Judicial Work Shadowing – is invaluable if you are 5 years plus post-qualified you can apply via the formal scheme but in practice many candidates make informal arrangements. Most DJs are very willing to assist and are very supportive to each other and DDJs.
DJ Chris Simmonds emphasised that the JAC are a friendly team and there to help you. Give specific examples on your application form and if you are unsuccessful do try again.