The image of old men in wigs with small wooden hammers might spring to mind when courts are brought up, but that would be trivialising the incredibly important role that the courts play in society.
The court system is the cornerstone of a democratic, free and fair society, and judges are some of the most trusted members of the community. However, judges are just one of the ingredients in the court system pie. Courts also employ clerks, reporters, recorders, administrators and interpreters who all work together to ensure that we live as part of a just nation.
How is the court system structured?
The court system in the UK is made up of many layers, which all ultimately sit beneath the highest court in the land, which is called the Supreme Court. The courts have the role of ensuring that laws are enforced, and they also have the responsibility of interpreting the law.
It is important to realise that we have three systems of law running simultaneously in the United Kingdom: English and Welsh law, Scottish law and Northern Irish law. Although each jurisdiction has slight variations in the law, the main principles remain the same across the UK, at all levels.
What are the different roles in the court system?
As you may have guessed, working as a judge is not an entry-level position and is reserved for lawyers with many, many years of experience. Indeed, most judges do not receive their appointments until they are middle aged.
A number of other individuals work in conjunction with the judges. For example, there are court clerks who have the task of looking after the court’s records, court reporters who reproduce transcripts of court hearings, or members of the HM Prison Service who look after prisoners that are required to go to court.
This is not to mention the army of administrators, interpreters and security team members that are needed in every court across the UK.
Is it difficult to become a member of the courts?
If you want to work in the courts there is plenty of opportunity, but if you are thinking of becoming a judge you will probably have to wait quite a few years! A large number of the positions in the court require legal training, but not all of them.
You are likely to be employed by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service and you can expect all of the perks that are associated with being a civil servant.
If you’d like to be a part of one of the most important institutions we have in the UK, whether you are intending to take the legal route or work behind the scenes in a supporting role, there are tons of opportunities available from graduate jobs to work experience, so get involved!
To read even more about the courts and law in general, take a look at our sister site AllAboutLaw.