This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Judges listen to court cases and make decisions on matters of law.
Judges usually earn
$334K-$490K per year
Source: Remuneration Authority, 2017.
Pay for judges varies depending on which court they work in. Judges have tenure (a fixed wage that cannot be decreased) to ensure that they remain impartial.
Judges usually earn $334,000 to $490,000 a year.
Judges may also receive an allowance of $4,000 to $6,000 a year for general expenses.
Source: Remuneration Authority, 'Judicial Salaries and Allowances Determination 2017', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Judges may do some or all of the following:
- enforce the rules during court cases
- listen to the evidence of witnesses and the arguments of lawyers
- make rulings on what evidence may be used
- guide juries on the law
- come to decisions on legal cases or receive the decisions of juries
- pass sentence on people who are convicted
- write decisions on cases
- sit on tribunals to help solve disputes
- decide custody and access disputes.
Skills and knowledge
Judges need to have knowledge of:
- New Zealand law and legal history
- how the court system operates
- other judges' decisions
- possible culture, gender and society issues that may affect court hearings
- management and leadership skills, so they can keep order in the court.
- usually work regular business hours. They may spend time after hours doing research
- work in offices and courts
- may travel between courthouses in a region to hear cases.
What's the job really like?
Teacher thought a career in law impossible
Originally Judge Becroft wasn't even sure he wanted to be a judge. "Because of my speech impediment, which is now under control, my history teacher said: 'There are three things Andrew will never be able to do – teach, be a minister, or be a lawyer.'
"So I was a hesitant starter at law school, and I can honestly say I never thought about being a judge. All I thought about was being the best lawyer and winning as many cases as I could."
A challenging but hugely rewarding job
In 1996 Judge Becroft was asked to become a District Court judge, and in 2001 he was appointed Principal Youth Court Judge.
"This is the most challenging, rewarding, demanding, depressing, frustrating, and deeply fulfilling job I could ever imagine.
"You feel very keenly the fact that you're the final decision-maker and the buck stops with you. Sending someone to prison for the first time in their life is a big decision to make, and when you see someone shaking in the dock you realise it’s a really big thing. I hope I never forget that."
To become a judge you need to:
- hold a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and have completed a Professional Legal Studies course
- have at least seven years' experience as a solicitor and/or barrister
- be of good character
- have a good knowledge of the law and what justice means in present-day New Zealand.
Most judges are chosen from partners and directors of law firms or Queen's Counsels.
People wishing to become judges need to apply or be nominated to the Attorney-General's Judicial Appointments Unit.
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, history and classical studies, te reo Māori and social studies.
Judges need to be:
- mature and responsible
- honest and fair
- accepting of public scrutiny
- able to interpret and analyse information.
Judges are screened before they are appointed for things such as integrity, character and honesty. A sense of fairness and respect is also very important.
(A'e'au) Semi Epati
District Court Judge
Useful experience for judges includes:
- work as a barrister and/or solicitor
- legal advisory work
- work for the Ministry of Justice
- work at parliament drafting new laws.
Find out more about training
- Institute of Judicial Studies
- (04) 496 3955 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.ijs.govt.nz
Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong competition for judge positions
Competition for judge positions is high because:
- the occupation is small – only about 249 people work as judges in New Zealand
- people tend to stay in the role for a long time
- the role of judge is highly respected and sought after by lawyers.
One employer of judges
The Ministry of Justice is the only employer of judges in New Zealand.
- Courts of New Zealand, 'Appointments', 2017, (www.courtsofnz.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Bar Association, 'High Court Annual Review 2016', 2016, (www.nzbar.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Artificial Intelligence and the Law', 20 January 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'New Zealand Judiciary', 22 June 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Judges may progress from District Court judge to positions in higher courts such as the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Judges may also progress to impartial positions within government such as Governor-General.
Last updated 14 September 2017