The Hon Mr Justice Hickinbottom

The Hon Mr Justice Hickinbottom is only the fourth solicitor to be appointed to the High Court bench.

He is also a Queen's Bench Liaison Judge with special responsibility for the Administrative Court out of London.

And he is even more of a rarity - having chosen to start his judicial career as a Parking Adjudicator. 

Determined to be a judge, he felt he needed 'flying time'. He explains: "As a litigation partner with a City law firm, my clients were mainly companies. Parking Adjudication was a deliberate choice because it involved no representation, short hearings, immediate decisions - it was part of the justice system that involved dealing regularly with different members of the public face-to-face."

He was later appointed a Recorder, sitting part-time in the court system as well as continuing as an Adjudicator.

Looking back, he says: "I enjoyed my job as a solicitor, but I had been doing it for 20 years and I didn't want to do it for another 25 years. Further, even then the tide was turning and we didn't have any 'old' partners - very few were over their mid-50s."

"Having given advice for 20 years, I wanted a different role making the decisions.  But I didn't want to be made a judge in the autumn of my professional life, as a sort of semi-retirement.  If able, I wanted to have good run as a judge - a second career."

He was appointed to his first two part-time judicial posts in 1994 when he was 38. "One difficulty for solicitors is that law firms tend to be, at best, unenthusiastic, and, at worst, downright hostile to solicitors in their full earning years going off to sit part-time."

For several years, he did not take holidays. He would work 13 day fortnights when it was busy, and then go and sit in Wales for two or three weeks. On top of that, he sat as a Parking Adjudicator one evening a week from 5pm to 8pm, later taking on test cases which raised legal issues.

"I wanted to gain as much sitting experience as I could," he explains. "As a solicitor, you are not in court as much as a busy silk, even though I had higher rights of audience and appeared in some major product liability interlocutory hearings. So I sat for the maximum ten weeks a year while doing as many billable hours as anyone else in my firm - so no one could complain."

In 2000, he was appointed a full-time Circuit Judge, ending up as Designated Civil Judge for Wales. "I continued to sit in both the court and tribunal systems, and in 2008 returned to London as Deputy Senior President of Tribunals to work on the tribunal reform programme."

In January 2009 he was appointed to the High Court bench, aged 53, and has moved back full-time to the court system.

He is keen to encourage more solicitors to consider the judiciary as a career. "You have to be a sound lawyer, not necessarily a brilliant one. Just as important are integrity and fairness, an understanding of people and the ability to make decisions."

He says there are frustrations with the job, often to do with financial constraints, "and you have to make and relay difficult decisions, such as sending a mother to prison or depriving a parent of his or her child. But judges can and do make a real difference to people's lives positively and quickly, sometimes instantly.  That is what justice is all about."

Overall, he says: "Judging is a job you either love or hate.  I love it. Given that the time is past for me to be a professional footballer or singer, there is no job I would rather do."