Number of judicial assistants set to grow

A MAJOR expansion of the Court of Appeal's judicial assistants scheme was predicted last week by the newly formed Association of Judicial Assistants.

Slaughter and May solicitor Trevor Barnes, chairman of the association, said that the Woolf reforms meant judges would need more judicial assistants – first appointed last year to help Court of Appeal judges prepare cases – to cope with the increase in case management.

He told The Lawyer that there had also been rumours that the scheme might be extended to the House of Lords.

The scheme, which uses pupil barristers or trainee solicitors on secondment, has already gone outside of the Court of Appeal for the first time with an assistant being appointed to help Mr Justice Colman of the Commercial Court.

And in response to requests from City firms, judicial assistants can now be appointed full-time for up to a year, rather than only for half a day per week for one or two legal terms.

They are also now assigned to specific judges who each head a “constitution” – a team of three judges who hear a group of cases at the Court of Appeal.

Responding to fears that expansion of the scheme may lead to a US-style system where law clerks – the US equivalent to judicial assistants – often work unsupervised and draft judgments, Barnes said: “This is definitely not the case in the UK.”

Barnes added that Court of Appeal judges still jealously guard the drafting of the legal judgment, allowing the assistants to draft the factual section only.