Rachael Vasmer is a Salaried Judge of the First-tier Tribunal, Social Entitlement Chamber. She was appointed in November 2011 and sits in Shrewsbury. She was a Fee-paid Social Entitlement Judge from 2002 (pre JAC) and a solicitor, and has been a partner in three firms.
Joining the judiciary has been a very positive experience and I would encourage
anyone with a disability to consider it.
I have found there is much more help, in terms of equipment and adjustments, than there was in private practice.
In 2008, one of my legs was amputated above the knee. I also have a spinal fusion and therefore have problems sitting, standing and walking. I use two crutches and have ongoing difficulties with pain and associated fatigue.
This is much easier to deal with, working a judicial sitting pattern, due to the flexibility they offer. We start sitting at 10am, and I tend to get up really early and work from home. If I also want to work from home in the evenings and/or weekends, I have the flexibility to do that. You have to be at the tribunal to do your sittings, but there is usually flexibility to do paperwork out of the office unless I need to be at my venue for some other reason.
I also found the JAC extremely helpful at making sure I was not disadvantaged during the selection process. They made arrangements for me to sit the test on my own so I could get up as I needed to.
I applied to be a Salaried Social Entitlement Judge before, in 2009, and was also going through a DJ (Civil) exercise when I heard I got my current role. So in total, I have sat a qualifying test three times and been interviewed twice.
I found it invaluable to have been through the process before and I would recommend doing one of the dry-runs the JAC advertises. The test can be a shock for some. It is designed to be high pressure - you have a lot to do in a short period of time. Look at the tests on the website beforehand and the feedback reports. You need to prepare properly as you will not have time for lots of flicking through statutes once you get into the test. I also found it very helpful to have been through the interview before. You have got to be able to give examples to demonstrate how specifically you have met the criteria and that was my downfall in my first attempt.
I am very pleased to have got away from some aspects of private practice - the focus on profits and targets - although I miss my colleagues and clinical negligence work. Holidays are easier too and I am certainly working more regular hours than before - my family say there has been a massive improvement. I enjoy the variety of work, the legal challenge and being much more in control of what work I do and when.