My journey to my recent appointment as a Sheriff has been scenic and interesting . It was not necessarily a destination I planned when I embarked upon my legal career almost three decades ago. After graduating I secured a traineeship with Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co in Glasgow where I remained for ten years, becoming a partner in 1992. As well as general private client and court work I specialised in media law, advising local and national newspapers on a daily and nightly basis. It was exciting for a newly qualified lawyer and offered me an avenue to qualify in English law and become a partner in the London libel firm of Peter Carter Ruck and Partners.
After the birth of my first child I followed my ambition and pursued a career at the Bar. I established a busy civil practice before becoming an Advocate Depute in 2008. The mix of civil and criminal experience has been invaluable in my current role. As a Legal Convenor of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland I had acquired some judicial experience and I took silk in 2013.
I was once advised not consider applying for judicial appointment until you have achieved all feel you would like to achieve as a solicitor or advocate. When the competition for appointment to the role of Sheriff was announced in 2014 I felt that time had come. While the application form is daunting it serves to focus the mind on where one’s skills lie and whether one would really be suited to the job. The requirement to provide practical examples to meet the criteria allows reflection over one’s entire career. If you think about it carefully you can surprise yourself as to the range of experience you can demonstrate.
The interview itself is demanding but there is helpful guidance on the website which enables you to prepare for the type of questions you may be asked.
Every step of the process requires time and effort and rightly so. However as I progressed through the stages I became more and more certain that this was the job I wanted.
Since taking up my appointment I have not doubted that choice. I very much enjoy the variety of work. One minute I can be dealing with summary crime , the next it can be animal welfare matters or a debate on a matter of contract. Versatility and a willingness to embrace new and unfamiliar areas of the law are essential. While the change of role is challenging it is also rewarding. As a floating sheriff I am gaining insight into the differences of approach between various sheriffs. My colleagues have been nothing but helpful and supportive.
Throughout the process and beyond I think it is important to portray your own personality and style. The diversity of the individuals appointed as Sheriffs strengthens the group as a whole.
I see this as the start of a new chapter in my legal career and look forward with enthusiasm to the years ahead.