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Solicitors battle through ‘technical difficulties’ to reach next JAC round

Hundreds of anxious solicitors who struggled to take an online qualifying test to become a member of the judiciary have unexpectedly reached the next stage of the recruitment process.

The Judicial Appointments Commission has apologised for the ‘technical difficulties’ experienced by nearly 2,500 applicants who participated in the first stage of the recruitment process on Wednesday evening to become a recorder, and the ‘stress and inconvenience’ caused.

Originally, only 60% of applicants who took Wednesday’s test were expected to proceed to the next stage.

However, in a statement issued yesterday, the JAC said: ’In light of these problems, we have decided to invite all candidates to proceed to the second stage (written scenario test) of this multi-stage selection process.’

The window for the two-part test, which was supposed to take only 75 minutes, opened at 4pm and closed at 10pm.

The JAC confirmed to the Gazette that this is the largest number of candidates who have applied for an exercise that the commission has run, with twice the number of applications that were received for the last recorder exercise.

The commission said: ‘Candidates sitting the test experienced problems because of a technical failure that had not been apparent in other exercises or identified in the load testing by our IT providers.

‘The JAC has initiated a review of the system to ensure it is sufficiently robust to handle these larger and more complex exercises.’

Instructions for the latest exercise were issued a week ago. JAC commissioner Martin Forde QC said at the time: ‘Some have queried why the test will take place during half-term for some schools. Due to the large number of applications, this exercise, which has four separate stages, will inevitably take longer than our 20-week target. It is planned to take 34 weeks to complete from launch to recommendation.

‘While we have worked hard to minimise any impact upon candidates’ personal and caring commitments, it was inevitable that an exercise taking this long to complete would touch, at some point, on at least one term-time break for some schools which increasingly have differing half-term holidays.’

Forde added: ‘While it may be difficult for some with caring responsibilities, we hope taking the test during half term will provide an opportunity to do this at a time when those who have planned a holiday to coincide with half term, can be relatively free from pressures of court or clients.’

The test was limited to a six-hour timeframe in response to allegations made in earlier exercises that a longer window provided a greater opportunity for cheating.

Forde said: ‘As the test is online, candidates only need access to a device with a browser and internet connection and can do the test at their convenience during the six-hour window that it is open.’

Last week’s instructions stated that the next stage of the recruitment process – a 70-minute online scenario – will open on 7 March from 4pm to 10pm.

The JAC told the Gazette that it will be in touch with every candidate over the next week to confirm arrangements for the second stage of the selection process, which will take place during the week beginning 6 March.

By Monidipa Fouzder (Courtesy of the Law Gazette Society)