Mr Justice Hickinbottom, a former McKenna & Co solicitor, has launched an attack on law firm managements, claiming they create unnecessary hurdles for solicitors trying to join the judiciary.
Hickinbottom J, who was appointed to the bench in September, said the judiciary lacks diversity due to the unwillingness of law firms to allow their lawyers to sit as recorders.
“I’ve met with several senior partners to see how to get more solicitors to sit as deputy district judges or recorders, but the stock reaction is that they don’t want to know,” he said. “They see no benefit to the firm, as recorders mainly sit in crime and they want them to be earning money for the firm.”
Hickinbottom J said that not allowing solicitors to sit part-time means that, when they reach firm retirement age and could go on to the bench, they lack the relevant experience.
“I don’t think the lack of solicitors in the judiciary is a Judicial Appointments Commission issue – it’s a cultural issue in firms,” said Hickinbottom J. “There needs to be a cultural change.”