Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram – why I became a judge

Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram – why I became a judge

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Why did I choose to become a judge? Well I guess I didn’t really. I was a lawyer I’m qualified at the Bar, I was then a solicitor. solicitor advocate in the higher courts. I was doing that for 17 years prosecuting, defending, making my argument on a daily basis and in those days there wasn’t really much publicity about judges, what they do or how to become a judge but I just thought to myself I just wonder what it would be like to make the decision myself and in fact what I did I was a partner in 30 partner law firm so it was a large law firm and I was leading my own team and what I saw in fact was a vacancy for a parking adjudicator. Well the thing about being a parking adjudicator is you can do it on an hourly basis so you don’t have to go and do the whole day you can just do a couple of hours in the evening or on a Saturday morning. So I applied for that, and it didn’t interfere with my practice – that’s the point because I did it on Saturday morning or in the evenings. I did that that and then I saw an ad. Now I’d never seen an ad on Courts Judiciary ever and the JAC hadn’t been created yet so it was the Department of Constitutional Affairs and I think it was probably the early days of the adverts and things and they had a selection centre. It was different than how did they do it now you have to fill in this really extensive form it was extensive but then they had a whole day and in the morning you had to do effectively an exam or a test and I think there were a couple of those and then in the afternoon there was a role play and then right in the end of the day there was an interview so they did the whole lot in one go and so I did that and I walked away I’m not just saying this I walked away thinking God – just no way and I got a letter about three or four months later saying yes and how to say there was nobody more shocked than I was. So you know, the process has changed a lot since then but that’s how I started as a part-time judge. Well mum was working packing Wagon Wheels in factory, dad was a postman for 26 years and people like us, knocking around the local park, we didn’t go and do degrees. In fact most of people who I know either became taxi drivers or maybe some of are landlords some of them are not even around anymore, so the one thing we didn’t think about really was going off and going into a profession so the first thing was even doing that. I graduated from a polytechnic and then of course couldn’t afford to my Bar exams. Now in those days you could just pitch up pay three hundred quid and do the exam but then you had to pay for your pupillage and I couldn’t afford to do that. In those days you can become an employed barrister without pupillage so that’s what I did. Along the way I became solicitor and I suppose it was then that I realized I was actually quite good at persuading people and clients came along, lots of them, so one day I was invited to partnership and I have to say I never ever ever thought they’d make me a partner so the challenges are at every single stage. It’s not what’s the challenge of becoming a judge it’s really what are the challenges of the legal profession and one thing I never thought was I could ever become a judge and so there is a major issue of confidence and I think a lot of people of my background don’t see themselves in those sorts of roles and you know I have to say even now there are times when I think I lack confidence but the one thing I have done is conscious of that I’ve gone for it and I have applied and I’ll tell you when I have applied I’ve got there. So you know I think that has to be a major message which is yeah I know you don’t think they’re looking for people like you but actually they are. I think the first thing is even if for a moment you lack confidence go for it because I’ve surprised myself again and again and again by thinking I’m not sure but applying. I’ve applied and I’ve got it. So that’s the first hurdle, the second is that the application process is not simple it is evidence-based. Now the JAC is using competences as the test and you’ve really got to understand you really have to understand what they’re looking for so you’ve got to identify what that evidence is going to be. Generalized statements like I’m good communicator gets you nowhere. So the tip I would give you is understand what the competencies are, they on the JAC website there’s guidance there but more importantly in that collect the evidence as you go along so that what you’re not doing is being faced with a 10-day window applying for a position and then thinking what do I put on this form because if you go along and pick examples where you’ve dealt with difficult situations where you’ve had to deal with people from very different backgrounds from yourself where you had that amazing intellectual challenge but you’ve overcome it and you’re making notes as you go along, you’re going to be ready when the time comes.

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