Becoming a Tribunal Judge

Appointments to tribunals are mainly through the Judicial Appointments Commission, on the basis of the statutory and non-statutory requirements for that specific post, as well as the qualities and abilities required in any good judge.

The JAC run appointment competitions for a number of tribunals outside the new tribunals structure (for example the Residential Property Tribunal Service) as well as for the new First-tier and Upper Tribunals (which absorbed the jurisdictions of a number of tribunals in 2008) .

Tribunal office-holders are appointed to either the First-tier Tribunal or the Upper Tribunal, and then assigned to a particular Chamber (for example, Health, Education and Social Care). They may or may not sit in all of the jurisdictions within that Chamber.

Most tribunal appointments are fee-paid, with successful candidates usually expected to sit for at least 15 days each year. For salaried appointment, individuals must normally have served as a fee-paid judicial office-holder for at least two years, or have completed 30 sitting days in a fee-paid capacity.

Basic requirements

As with the courts judiciary, tribunal appointments are open only to citizens of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or a Commonwealth country.

There is no upper or lower age limit, apart from the statutory retirement age of 70 for all judges.

Applications from disabled people are welcomed.

Legally-qualified appointments

As with the courts judiciary, most legally-qualified posts will require five or seven years of post qualification experience (the relevant legal qualifications for solicitors or barristers), and legal experience gained during that time.

However, tribunal judges need not always have been solicitors or barristers. The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act (2007) widened the eligibility for many judicial posts, making them open to The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILE), members of the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (ITMA) and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).

Applications are also welcomed from non-traditional legal backgrounds, for example legal academics.

Non-legal appointments

The varied nature of tribunal work means that there are a number of positions available for non-legal professionals who have expertise in different areas – for example, Employment Tribunals have panel members from employee or employers’ representative backgrounds, and many tribunals include medical professionals.

Requirements for these positions are based on the nature of the tribunal, and candidates must be able to demonstrate the relevant professional experience.

Case Studies

Upper Tribunal Judge Rebecca Owens

Deputy Upper Tribunal Judge Dave Cotton