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pzabbythesecond

Judgeship - if you aren't a litigator, is it still possible?

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Hey all,

 

So I'm getting to that point of narrowing down my career. I won't get into details but at this point, the field I wish to work in has potential litigation and solicitor work. Personally I'm leaning towards the solicitor side of it, not because I don't like litigation/the prospect of being a litigator, but because I feel solicitor work achieves the ends I'm seeking better in my desired field than litigation. 

 

However, if going solicitor means closing off any avenue to judgeship (either entirely or substantially) it's a factor I would consider. I appreciate that professors become judges so litigation isn't necessary, but can solicitors also apply/be appointed? How much more difficult would it be? 

 

Thanks, 

 

Pzab

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1 hour ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Hey all,

 

So I'm getting to that point of narrowing down my career. I won't get into details but at this point, the field I wish to work in has potential litigation and solicitor work. Personally I'm leaning towards the solicitor side of it, not because I don't like litigation/the prospect of being a litigator, but because I feel solicitor work achieves the ends I'm seeking better in my desired field than litigation. 

 

However, if going solicitor means closing off any avenue to judgeship (either entirely or substantially) it's a factor I would consider. I appreciate that professors become judges so litigation isn't necessary, but can solicitors also apply/be appointed? How much more difficult would it be? 

 

Thanks, 

 

Pzab

OK, so first of all, becoming a judge is so far in your future, so unpredictable and so dependent on so many factors that it shouldn't even factor into your decision as to what career to have.

Judge selection at least for federal judges is a politicized process and so your connections are the most important factor. However, from what I know from observing/working with/talking to judges, generally litigation experience is desired and preferred. There is the odd judge who has a solicitor's background and gets appointed. I talked to one - they said it was a huge learning curve, but do-able. You wouldn't be closing the avenue entirely but maybe you would substantially. The key to becoming a judge is to first become an experienced, respected, highly regarded lawyer and you are starting to build that reputation now.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with providence that picking your career to set yourself up to become a judge is not a good idea. It’s like picking your field of law to become GC of a Fortune 500 company (ok not quite, there are a lot more judges than Fortune 500 company GCs). 

But yeah your already low chances of becoming a judge are almost totally obliterated by not doing litigation or being an academic. 

Edited by NYCLawyer
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My understanding is that there's no real "rule" barring solicitors from becoming judges, but it's a hell of a lot easier to learn the job if you come in having worked with the Rules of Civil Procedure and practicalities of the court processes. It generally seems that having a stellar reputation as a litigator is one of the more common first steps for becoming a judge.

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Thanks all!

 

As to the point of it being so far down the future, and already so unlikely - I'm well aware of that. I'm moving forward with the assumption that it won't happen. I just wanted to know how much of an impact going the solicitor v litigator route had on the possibility in general, so it can be a somewhat more informed decision.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, NYCLawyer said:

 

But yeah your already low chances of becoming a judge are almost totally obliterated by not doing litigation or being an academic. 

At the Tax Court at least, there seems to be a roughly 50/50 split between judges with litigation backgrounds versus those with solicitor backgrounds.  

Edited by hORNS

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37 minutes ago, hORNS said:

At the Tax Court at least, there seems to be a roughly 50/50 split between judges with litigation backgrounds versus those with solicitor backgrounds.  

You’re probably right. I don’t know anything about how “niche” courts work.  My answer was for typical trial/superior court judges. In the US many state judges are elected so you could theoretically be anyone. 

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8 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Thanks all!

 

As to the point of it being so far down the future, and already so unlikely - I'm well aware of that. I'm moving forward with the assumption that it won't happen. I just wanted to know how much of an impact going the solicitor v litigator route had on the possibility in general, so it can be a somewhat more informed decision.

If you end up in the private sector, it may also not be particularly financially rewarding for you to become a judge. You can earn way more in private practice, especially if you are in a major city and at a mid to large firm. If you end up in government however, there is a financial incentive.

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34 minutes ago, thegoodlaw said:

If you end up in the private sector, it may also not be particularly financially rewarding for you to become a judge. You can earn way more in private practice, especially if you are in a major city and at a mid to large firm. If you end up in government however, there is a financial incentive.

Thanks. But money really isn't a factor at that point.

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16 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

Hey all,

 

So I'm getting to that point of narrowing down my career. I won't get into details but at this point, the field I wish to work in has potential litigation and solicitor work. Personally I'm leaning towards the solicitor side of it, not because I don't like litigation/the prospect of being a litigator, but because I feel solicitor work achieves the ends I'm seeking better in my desired field than litigation. 

 

However, if going solicitor means closing off any avenue to judgeship (either entirely or substantially) it's a factor I would consider. I appreciate that professors become judges so litigation isn't necessary, but can solicitors also apply/be appointed? How much more difficult would it be? 

 

Thanks, 

 

Pzab

13 hours ago, providence said:

OK, so first of all, becoming a judge is so far in your future, so unpredictable and so dependent on so many factors that it shouldn't even factor into your decision as to what career to have.

Judge selection at least for federal judges is a politicized process and so your connections are the most important factor. However, from what I know from observing/working with/talking to judges, generally litigation experience is desired and preferred. There is the odd judge who has a solicitor's background and gets appointed. I talked to one - they said it was a huge learning curve, but do-able. You wouldn't be closing the avenue entirely but maybe you would substantially. The key to becoming a judge is to first become an experienced, respected, highly regarded lawyer and you are starting to build that reputation now.

I have a family friend who happens to be a judge, and I asked them many of these same questions.  Providence's reply pretty closely parallels what they told me about career trajectory towards the bench, with the exception that they did not have any qualms about young ambition towards being a judge. They admitted themselves to aspiring to higher levels of federal politics at the beginning of their career, but "settled" for aiming to the bench (lol).  They have also personally mentored a handful of lawyers successfully who have all been called to the bench over the years.  So, I think influence and/or "coaching" candidates has a HUGE impact on the ability/opportunity/likelihood of making it to judge. This particular judge had quite a bit of soliciting experience themselves in private practice prior to joining the crown's office, and subsequently getting called to the bench.  So though soliciting experience is not a detriment of course, some litigation experience (on either or preferably both sides of criminal) along with continuing legal education and community involvement seem more or less crucial to making it. Also, I gather that one of the biggest determinations in appointment is your reputation -particularly what other judges in your jurisdiction have to say about you personally/professionally- upon becoming a candidate.  At least this was my impression from our conversations on the matter.

Also, from speaking with various local lawyers, you don't need to worry too much about pigeon-holing yourself into a particular field of law and the doors closing on all others.  Lateral moves and full career changes aren't unheard of, and even general practitioners who dabble in litigation and/or prosecution have and continue to become judges, at least in my rural area.  I'm sure there are some differences in the larger cities, but I have no idea.

 

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Just now, pzabbythesecond said:

Thanks. But money really isn't a factor at that point.

But how could you manage on a meager 250K-300K/year salary?  You'd have to give up on the Dalmore 50 and start drinking that Macallan swill.

/s

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5 hours ago, hORNS said:

At the Tax Court at least, there seems to be a roughly 50/50 split between judges with litigation backgrounds versus those with solicitor backgrounds.  

Yeah, in that forum the solicitors typically have a deeper tax technical expertise which offsets any disadvantage in lack of litigation experience.

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58 minutes ago, thegoodlaw said:

If you end up in the private sector, it may also not be particularly financially rewarding for you to become a judge. You can earn way more in private practice, especially if you are in a major city and at a mid to large firm. If you end up in government however, there is a financial incentive.

Eh, yes and no.  Sure, you can make more money as a Bay Street partner than as a judge. 

But you have to work damned hard for it.  And the government takes 50% of the difference. 

On the other hand, judges have very juicy pensions and benefits packages (all constitutionally protected according to the ... ahem.... judges on the SCC). And it's a lifestyle choice - it's an intellectually stimulating job, which gives you more time off and more predictable hours.  if it's a pay cut, it's not an outrageous one on an after-tax basis.  There's no shortage of former biglaw partners who have jumped at the opportunity.  

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, pzabbythesecond said:

 but can solicitors also apply/be appointed? How much more difficult would it be? 

 

Start volunteering for a federal political party early in your career.   Not donating money but donating your personal time. 

In a world of grasping semi competent poli sci graduates and student council reps you will stand out. 15-20 years from now you will get your pay off. 

 

Edited by kurrika
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12 minutes ago, kurrika said:

Start volunteering for a federal political party early in your career.   Not donating money but donating your personal time. 

In a world of grasping semi competent poli sci graduates and student council reps you will stand out. 15-20 years from now you will get your pay off. 

 

Should add that that party needs to be liberals or consent for judgeship purposes - not the greens!

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2 hours ago, maximumbob said:

Eh, yes and no.  Sure, you can make more money as a Bay Street partner than as a judge. 

But you have to work damned hard for it.  And the government takes 50% of the difference. 

On the other hand, judges have very juicy pensions and benefits packages (all constitutionally protected according to the ... ahem.... judges on the SCC). And it's a lifestyle choice - it's an intellectually stimulating job, which gives you more time off and more predictable hours.  if it's a pay cut, it's not an outrageous one on an after-tax basis.  There's no shortage of former biglaw partners who have jumped at the opportunity.  

I know several judges who believed this before they took office, but found that being a judge was just as hard and just as many hours as private practice was, if not more,  and they don’t necessarily control their hours all that well either. 

Pension, benefits etc are a big draw though.  

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11 minutes ago, providence said:

I know several judges who believed this before they took office, but found that being a judge was just as hard and just as many hours as private practice was, if not more,  and they don’t necessarily control their hours all that well either. 

Pension, benefits etc are a big draw though.  

I know several judges who can attest to the sweeter lifestyle - in vacation days alone.  Not that judges don't work hard - they do - but when they turn off for the day, they're off for the day.   

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Just now, maximumbob said:

I know several judges who can attest to the sweeter lifestyle - in vacation days alone.  Not that judges don't work hard - they do - but when they turn off for the day, they're off for the day.   

I guess it depends on the judge because that’s exactly what I was told they can’t do. 

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4 minutes ago, providence said:

I guess it depends on the judge because that’s exactly what I was told they can’t do. 

They don't prep for cases like you or the Crown do though, they literally show up on a case by case basis to see what they're dealing with at hand.  Maybe it depends on the court (all provincial courts here) and the judge I am most familiar with is nearing retirement, but this individual definitely enjoys the quantity and quality of vacation days and it does not seem to be anything new.

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Just now, providence said:

I guess it depends on the judge because that’s exactly what I was told they can’t do. 

It probably depends on the bench - most of the judges I know are in the Provincial court (the "Ontario Court of Justice" is just too pretentious a name)

The "can" do it, though I think some of the people who become judges got to where they are precisely because they can't turn off their professional lives, so continue to think about their files in their sleep.  But, it's not like they're responding to emails around the clock, they get 6 weeks of paid vacation (30 days) a year (over and above the myriad of "holidays" that aren't holidays for everyone else - remembrance day, Easter monday, come to mind - or which the rest of us have been known to work through).  Toss in ample CPD, chambers days, free parking and PJO plates (don't know if they issue those), it's a sweet gig.  

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