UCL Faculty of Laws


Appointing and Training Judges

Research by Judicial Studies in the UK has led to changes in the appointment and training of national and international court judges

Judicial Studies in the UK has had a wide impact and has resulted in:

  • Improved fairness of judicial selection practices
  • Reduced barriers to judicial diversity
  • Improved data collection on judicial appointments
  • Improved training for judges and aspiring judges
  • Improved understanding of the barriers to judicial diversity


Judges and courts play an increasingly important role in national and international politics. Yet there has been little empirical research in the UK about the appointment and training of court judges.

To tackle this, the UCL Faculty of Laws has pioneered Judicial Studies in the UK, with research being conducted by Professor Dame Hazel Genn (Director of the UCL Centre for Access to Justice) and Professor Cheryl Thomas (Co-Director of the UCL Judicial Institute) and Professor Philippe Sands (Director of the UCL Centre for International Courts and Tribunals).


Their research has impacted both judicial appointments and training in numerous ways:

Judicial appointments

In 2008, Professor Genn conducted research on why highly qualified practitioners were not applying for senior judicial posts. She found that many practitioners, particularly women, did not apply because of the lack of flexible working conditions. This contributed to the High Court introducing flexible working and the number of women increased from 10 in 2008 to 18 in 2013.

In 2010, Professor Thomas conducted research for the Neuberger Panel on Judicial Diversity, identifying successful judicial diversity strategies in other jurisdictions. Her findings led to improved diversity data collection by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution also drew upon her research in its 2011 recommendations for improving judicial appointments.

In 2008–2009, Professor Sands conducted research on judicial appointments to international courts. His findings were used in 2011 by the International Criminal Court to draw up new operating procedures. In 2013, they were used again by member states to review screening processes for potential appointees.

Judicial training

In 2006, the Judicial Studies Board (JSB) (now known as the Judicial College) commissioned Professor Genn to develop a Framework of Judicial Abilities and Qualities based on an empirical study of the training needs of the English judiciary. Since 2008, this has been the basis for the development of all judicial training in England and Wales.

The JSB also commissioned Professor Thomas to review judicial training in 12 jurisdictions and identify best practice and innovative programmes. The JSB then implemented a new training strategy based on this research, which includes more use of participatory learning, cross-jurisdictional courses and generic ‘judgecraft’ skills courses.

Professor Genn also conducted a review of judicial training needs in Scotland in 2007. It led to the development of a new judicial training programme and the establishment of the Judicial Institute for Scotland.

Professor Thomas’s 2010 research on judicial diversity strategies in other jurisdictions led to the Neuberger Panel recommendation that judicial skills training should be offered to lawyers interested in applying for a judicial post. In 2011, the UCL Judicial Institute developed a training course for lawyers wishing to apply for judicial appointment. It was cited by the Judicial Diversity Taskforce as evidence that key recommendations of the Neuberger Panel have been fulfilled.

Learn more

Purple Haze: The Danger of Being in the Dark about Judges

Watch Professor Cheryl Thomas’s lecture dispelling the myth that the law prevents research about the professional judiciary and judicial system. She argues that the lack of Judicial Studies in the UK is academically unacceptable and socially dangerous, leaving our understanding of the judiciary both conceptually and empirically weak.

  • Cheryl Thomas, Understanding Judicial Diversity: Research Report for the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity (2009)
  • Hazel Genn, The attractiveness of senior judicial appointment to highly qualified practitioners, Report to the Judicial Executive Board (2008)