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How to Become a Judge: From CILEx to the Judiciary

Wondering about how to become a judge? You can reach this legal career role through the legal executive pathway. In the first of this series from CILEx, Chartered Legal Executive Advocate Helen shares her journey as she seeks a career in the judiciary.

How to Become a Judge

My name is Helen White and I currently work for Howells LLP as a chartered legal executive advocate. Most of my work as a full-time criminal lawyer encompasses dealing with police station attendances, Magistrates’ Court advocacy and criminal litigation on serious Crown Court cases. I initially got into criminal law purely by accident; having been a medical secretary for 6 years, my intention was to join the armed forces. I live in South Yorkshire and am married with a fur baby called Lottie.

So what’s the point of this blog? The blog is me sharing my experience of tiptoeing through what I have done to get me to where I am today as part of the CILEx Judicial Development Programme, working towards becoming a judge.  I am writing the blog as what I hope will be a simple guide to fellow CILEX members looking into the judiciary and my ambition is that it will hopefully encourage others to tread boldly where they have not done previously into an area where CILEx members are greatly underrepresented.

For me I knew I wanted to become a judge as soon as I saw the front cover of the ILEX journal back in 2007 just after the law changed allowing us to apply.  I wasn’t qualified at that stage so the first step was to qualify and then get the relevant exposure to assist in this journey. This meant becoming a CILEx Fellow. I can’t say that it was a conscious decision immediately thereafter but specialising in criminal law has lead me into some very interesting and serious cases that I have defended.

The tangible decision to start this journey through judicial development was made after attending the Judicial Diversity networking event at Newcastle University in March 2017.  I knew then that I had the relevant experience but was so very scared to make the leap as the event was attended by lawyers of longer call and I felt they would be better candidates.  I knew that too, wasn’t the right attitude, so having heard from Lady Hallett QC, I knew the way forward was to apply and just go for it.

A little while after this event the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) then advertised roles for First Tier Tribunal Judges so I sought advice from fellow lawyers (with whom I had worked with on cases) for their advice. They wholeheartedly encouraged me to apply, all of them echoing the same sentiments:“This is right up your street” and “You will be amazing in this role”.  Obviously bolstered by the recommendations and inspiration, I submitted an application.  I had already booked on to the CILEx launch event in Bristol in June 2017 for the CILEx Judicial Development Programme and attended knowing that I had already set the ball rolling.

This was just the first step on the road to achieving my goal of becoming a CILEx Judge, there are of course more steps that I will hopefully get to unpack in this blog series, the highs and lows, the fun and tough times and everything in between. Look out for my next post as I go through my thoughts, feelings and advice on progressing through the CILEx Judicial Development selection programme.


Stay tuned for the second part of Helen’s story on how to become a judge, or read more through CILEx’s blog Journey Through Judicial Development.


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