Ian Ashley-Smith was the first person to be appointed as a judge direct from being a CILEX Fellow and sits as a Deputy District Judge (Civil) in County Courts around Kent. He continues to practise in Eastbourne.
Deputy District Judges sit on a fee-paid (part time) basis in the County Courts and district registries of the High Court for between 15 and 50 days a year. In general their jurisdiction is the same as that of a district judge and can involve a wide spectrum of cases such as claims for damages and injunctions, possession proceedings against mortgage borrowers and property tenants and insolvency proceedings.
"Although always challenging, I have really enjoyed sitting as a Deputy District Judge. The judges have been so helpful - Deputy District Judges, District Judges and those on the Circuit bench. They are anxious to ensure you succeed. My firm, CILEX and family have also been very supportive.
"I am enjoying sitting at the different courts where I have practised over the years. As Deputy District Judges we hear a wide variety of cases - housing, family, divorce, contracts, road accidents - I always ask the listing officer for the court I am due to appear at for my list for the following day. Even so, changes in listing, where cases have settled for example, often means you do not really know what cases you will be hearing from one sitting to the next and this keeps me on my toes. Fortunately, my 40 odd years in general practise has helped me considerably and it is fascinating to see matters from the other side of the bench.
"The key to a successful application for judicial office is preparation. The first thing I did was some judicial shadowing. It was arranged for me by the local circuit administrator and I spent three days in a County Court with a District Judge. It was wonderful preparation because you learn how to stop being an advocate and start being a judge.
"I also attended a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) candidate seminar and I was impressed by the JAC representative because he emphasised the importance of filling in the application form properly. It took me about a week to complete the application form and before I did, I devoured everything on the JAC website - it is all there and fantastically easy to navigate.
"To my immense surprise my application was successful and I was invited to attend a test day. I went back to the JAC website where there are lots of previous exam papers and guidance. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of going through the test papers and completing them under test conditions - it is the only real way you can prepare. There were not any traps - all you needed to do was think about your answers and get them down in time.
"Having got through the test, I was then invited back to a selection day, which was a day of two halves. The first half was an interview and the second was role play. In preparation for the interview, I spent some time going over my application form. I also spent some time on the JAC website - it is all there, they tell you exactly what they are looking for. There is video footage of an example of role play and plenty of written material about what is expected."