Judges are at the pinnacle of the legal profession. In the courtroom, they are the embodiment of justice, marked by special robes and sitting on the dais above and apart from everyone else. As litigators, we read and rely on their decisions on a daily basis. Their words are literally the law.
There’s less focus, however, on the parts of their careers before and after the bench. They each have impressive paths to the bench, and thoughts on what you need to get onto the bench and to be a successful judge. They have held a unique vantage point to watch the profession change over time. Many also have fascinating careers after they leave the bench. And of course, they are the only people able to truly compare life on the bench with life in private practice.
This newsletter explores all of those questions. It includes interviews with three retired judges – Justices Frank Newbould and Sandra Chapnik of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and Justice Sandra Simpson of the Federal Court. It also includes an article on lessons learned from Justice Karen Weiler of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
As you read, a few themes will emerge. First, life on the bench is no less challenging than life in private practice, but the challenges are different. For example, you have to stay neutral, keep your mouth shut, lean into the fact that the lawyers know more about the case than you do, decide cases outside your area of expertise, and cope with the court’s aging technology and lack of resources.