Senior City solicitors have attacked the Lord Chancellor's Department for wasting a “huge pool” of City talent that on retirement “will be heading for the golf course instead of the judge's bench”.
The City of London Law Society hit out following the results of a survey it conducted of City litigation partners.
Of the 289 who responded, an astonishing 71 per cent said they would be interested in seeking a judicial appointment if Lord Woolf's proposals were implemented.
Lord Woolf wants retired litigation solicitors to become “civil magistrates”, providing advice and management support to judges. He has also recommended more specialisation for judges so that former civil litigation solicitors would not have to preside in criminal cases.
But Masons partner Martin Roberts, who sat on the City Law Society's working party on judicial appointments and conducted the survey, said the Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay had yet to improve the entry system to remove the barriers for solicitors who wanted to become judges.
In order to qualify as a full-time circuit judge, applicants have to sit part-time for at least six years.
“City partners simply can't be spared from their partnership for that sort of time,” said Roberts.
The survey of 120 City firms also found that 38 per cent of respondents would be interested in seeking a judicial appointment at some stage in their career even if current conditions remained unchanged.
Most of those who were interested in judicial appointments wanted to apply in their fifties.