Paralegals given green light to become judges

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has confirmed that senior paralegals are now eligible to become judges.

The decision follows discussions between the JAC and the Institute of Paralegals during 2009 and 2010, which concluded that paralegals may apply to become judges of first-tier tribunals.

James O’Connell, chief executive of the institute said: “It is yet another sign that paralegals are becoming recognised as professional legal practitioners.”

The changes to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act will allow paralegals to apply for two roles that the JAC is selecting in the coming months.

The positions are Fee Paid Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber and Fee Paid Immigration Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Immigration and Asylum chamber.

Since the Act was passed in 2008, it has not been necessary to have formal legal qualifications for some judicial posts in tribunals. The Lord Chancellor can decide if a paralegal has sufficient experience to proceed in the JAC selection process.

Judge David Pearl, JAC Commissioner, who sits as a judge of the Upper Tribunal, said: “The JAC is excited by this broader approach to eligibility because we are committed to expanding the range of applicants for judicial appointment.”