Information for legal practitioners

A window into life on the Bench

The District Court is the engine room of New Zealand’s civil and criminal justice system. It touches the lives of thousands of people, and many people’s entire futures may turn on its decisions.

Barristers derive professional fulfilment through helping clients to reach fair outcomes during a conflict or crisis in their lives, the cut and thrust of courtroom argument and a love of the law.  Members of the profession will appreciate the importance of good quality judging to this process. Perhaps less appreciated are the opportunities a judicial career offers for taking professional fulfilment to a new level while continuing to make a real difference in people’s lives.

The District Court is entering a phase of renewal in the next few years as a wave of judges reach retirement age. This opens the door to experienced lawyers to consider whether joining the Bench might be a good career move.  Yet many potential candidates may be put off because of outdated perceptions about the role and qualities of a judge.

Modern judging is increasingly dynamic. To truly represent the public it serves, the District Court needs a diverse mix of judges who reflect the wide range of communities who make up Aotearoa New Zealand. Both the criminal and family divisions of the District Court need judges who are compassionate, in touch with community views and expectations, solutions focused and innovative, and of course knowledgeable of the law and skilled in its practice. The modern District Court judge is nimble, open to new ideas and able to withstand the public gaze and criticism in an age of relentless media scrutiny. In the District Court, the role is particularly varied and offers wide scope for individuals to show initiative and make their mark.

To help determine whether this role might be for you, and whether your current career settings are right should you wish to progress on to the Bench, the New Zealand Law Society Continuing Legal Education is hosting a series of seminars around the country to provide a window into the life of a District Court Judge.

We will lead what we aim to be lively sessions where we will answer questions, step attendees through a typical day in the life of a judge, and explain the selection process and more about the qualities we are seeking. You might be surprised.

We encourage you to more than think about, and to come along.

Jan-Marie Doogue, Chief District Court Judge
Jackie Moran, Principal Family Court Judge

This was a Joint Statement from the Chief District Court Judge and Principal Family Court Judge for: LawTalk, the NZLS electronic newsletter LawPoints 24 January issue, and NZLS website.

For further information, see the NZLS for upcoming news: A window into life on the bench