A solicitor has been appointed to the High Court bench direct from private practice for the first time.
Dr Lawrence Collins QC is heading the Chancery Division following his appointment by the Queen. He will take up his new role in October.
The Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine welcomed the decision: "High Court judges are appointed strictly on merit and I am delighted that we have been able to make a little history with this appointment. Lawrence Collins is an outstanding practitioner and highly respected legal scholar here and abroad.
"The appointment marks another step in the diversification of the judiciary without any reduction in the first rate ability of those who sit on the bench."
Collins was admitted as a solicitor in 1968 and became a partner with Herbert Smith in 1971. Between 1995 and 1988 he headed the firm's litigation and arbitration department. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1997 and has sat as a deputy High Court judge since 1997.
A spokesman for Herbert Smith says: 'We are delighted for Lawrence who fully deserves the appointment. It is a great achievement."
Collins will retire from the partnership when he takes up his new position.