The appointment of a solicitor to a top employment tribunal role is a sign the judiciary is finally opening up, the Law Society has said.
The Law Society said it welcomed the appointment of solicitor David Latham to the role of president of employment tribunals and says his appointment is an example for solicitors with judicial ambitions.
Law Society president Paul Marsh, said: “We congratulate Mr Latham on his appointment to this senior judicial role and hope this fuels the aspirations of other solicitors to seek appointment to the bench. Once the reserve of the Bar, the judiciary is gradually opening up. Mr Latham’s appointment is a giant step in that process.”
Mr Latham, 62, was admitted as a solicitor in 1971. He was appointed as a part-time chairman of the employment tribunals in 1992, becoming a full-time chairman in 1996, and then appointed as regional chairman in 2001. He was also appointed as legal chairman of the reinstatement committees and umpires panel in 1998 and of the reserve forces appeal tribunal in 2003.
Mr Latham replaces Judge Meeran who retires as president of employment tribunals (England and Wales) at the end of the year.
Mr Marsh said the Law Society had been a strong advocate for an independent and impartial system for judicial appointments, and was glad to see admission widening out. The society continues to lobby on behalf of its members for improvements to both the underlying statutes and the selection process which could either deter or debar solicitors from applying for and attaining appointment as a judge.
It is working with the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice to persuade senior partners to adopt a more positive attitude to colleagues considering a judicial appointment.
Mr Marsh said: “Mr Latham’s appointment is currently the exception to the rule, but I am convinced that senior solicitors with experience of managing major projects and cases would make ideal candidates for judicial appointment. However, they are just not putting themselves forward.
“In the contact that we have with senior partners in most cases there is a negative attitude to the idea of partners having time out of practice to sit on the bench. We want to change that mindset. Firms should regard the appointment of one of their solicitors to the bench as reflecting credit on their firms.”
Through its collaboration with the JAC, the Law Society is working to open up the judiciary to solicitors, and in turn help to ensure the appointment of more women, disabled, black and ethnic minority candidates to the bench.