I went along last night to the last of the series of seminars run jointly by the Society and the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, attempting to "demythologise" the Board's role and the application process.

Sir Muir Russell and Professor Andrew Coyle of the Board gave presentations on its aims and processes, and then left a good half of the scheduled hour for questions from the floor.

The presentations revealed how the Board goes through an initial sift of applications, takes up references, decides who to interview (a number bearing some proportion to the size of pool of suitable candidates it wants to end up with), consults relevant preople and professional bodies to check whether anyone is considered unsuitable, and carries out the interview process itself. Look out for forthcoming Journal coverage.

Questions from the floor covered matters such as:

  • If you're in the pool but not offered a post, do you have to reapply for the pool for the following year? (Yes, but the aplicaton will be given a bye through the first stages.)
  • Are they looking for generalists or specialists? ("A broad range of skills and abilities" is the aim, but the Board believes that even people coming from a specialist background don't want to be categorised in that way, and they look for the right ability, enthusiasm and mental set rather than people ready made for the job. And the legal test which forms part of the interview is designed to assess ability to identify points for discussion.)
  • What is the likelihood of a competition for part time sheriffs? (Can't be certain, because courts are trying to reduce dependence on them, but there may be one next year.)
  • Do they give feedback to applicants? (Yes, on request, and try to make it as helpful as possible.)

All in all, a commendably open and useful exchange. But what was noticeable to me was the audience mix – pretty much the same proportion of male to female as the Board always claims it gets in applications, and ends up making in appointments, i.e. probably less than a quarter female. And I spotted one likely ethnic minority person.

So while we can applaud such initiatives by the Board, it only tends to confirm that we shall have to wait a little longer for more women to put themselves forward in order to achieve a more equal mix on the bench.

If you're interested, by the way, advertisements to begin the process of selecting next year's appointment pool will appear from 2 July, with a closing date of 6 August.