Employment Judge Balogun – why I became a judge
September 1, 2019
Becoming a judge was never really part of my career plan. I did a law degree I became a solicitor, so for me the natural career progression would either be a partner in the firm or work in house and as it is I went down the in-house route and before I became a judge I worked for an employer’s organization specialising in employment law, so the decision to become become a judge I suppose by chance. I happened to see an advert an advert in the Law Society Gazette for fee-paid judges so I was surprised because I’d never seen the role of a judge advertised before so out of curiosity I looked and look to see what they were after and when I looked at the criteria I thought well I’ve got all of that why don’t I apply. So I did and this was a few days before the August Bank Holiday holiday so I was going to be off work for a few days I thought I’d use that opportunity to fill it in then and then so I spent the best part of the long weekend filling out the application form, I submitted it and then to my surprise I was then invited for an interview, had the interview and it was hard but because I’d spent quite a lot of time filling out the application form I think that helped and then a few months down line I think I’d forgotten about it and I to my surprise was appointed to the role and I say to my surprise because I wasn’t expecting to be appointed and I suppose I had in my mind that being a judge was a career path for barristers and at that time not many solicitors were judges so and if I hadn’t got it I wouldn’t have been that disappointed but having got it I was delighted. I suppose one of the main challenges in in going through the process was the initial stage of filling out the application form. I’d been doing the same job for 13 years at that point so it had been a while since I had applied for anything. This was first time that I’d actually applied for a role where it was a competency-based process so I think the hard part for me was trying to get together the examples for the various competencies within the application form and also I found that a number of the examples applied across a number of the competencies so there was a danger of repetition and not putting in enough information, so that was the hardest part and then again in the interview more examples were asked for so it was trying to think on your feet and come up with with other examples and then I suppose once I was appointed and there was the initial anxiety about wearing a different hat to the one that I wore as a an employment law specialist because I’d always appeared in the tribunal and always appeared acting for respondents and so I now had to take off that hat and sit as the judge and stand back and be dispassionate about each side’s case so that took a lot of getting used to but I think after a few sittings that was fine. I suppose the other challenge was that of course it was fee paid so I was sitting for 30 days in the tribunal that also doing my day job and although of course I was taking time out of my day job to do it there wasn’t a corresponding reduction in my work it was just waiting for me while I was there, so it was trying to balance my day job the sittings but also I was a new mum around that time and so I was trying to balance being a new mother as well so there were a lot of other balls that I was juggling and I suppose and that’s one reason why two years down the line I acted as a fee-paid judge for four years and then I applied for the salaried position and then I went through the same application process (it’s a competency based interview) but this time there was a further stage because there was a written test at a centre as well as an assessment day which involved role play a presentation and then the formal interview so a lot harder but I felt that having been through the first interview I was a lot more prepared and I had more examples to give and of course as I’d sat as a fee paid judge I was able to use examples from my time as a fee paid judge as well so the process was a lot better. I think one of the things that persuaded me also to go for the salaried position is because by that stage they were offering flexible working and so I applied to work part time on an 80% contract and that’s the basis on which I was appointed and so that allowed me to have a better work-life balance. The single piece of advice that I would give to anybody thinking about a judicial career is to get your examples together for the competencies on the application form because I found it difficult trying to think of things and I think if you prepare them in advance it makes it a lot easier you also have to have some up your sleeve for the interview as well so make a diary note. You might think that it’s not relevant but what you’ll find is that there are a lot of things that you do in your day job that are transferable skills that will be relevant to the role of a judge.