Your Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Legal Executive
If you’ve got a passion for law, and want to start a career in the legal field, then you will have heard the term ‘legal executive’ a fair bit.
But do you actually know what a legal executive is? What do legal executives do? What is a legal executive salary? And how would you become a legal executive?
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) and how to embark on the exciting journey of becoming a Legal Executive.
1. What are Legal Executives?
2. Legal Executives vs Solicitors
3. How to become a Legal Executive
4. Average Legal Executive salary
5. Do I need a qualification?
6. Finding the right course for you
1. What are Legal Executives? And what do Legal Executives do?
First things first, let’s start with the basics. A Legal Executive is a qualified legal professional specialising in a specific law area.
They provide valuable support to solicitors and barristers and have numerous key responsibilities, such as:
Client consultation and advice: CILEX qualified Legal Executives meet with clients to understand their legal needs, provide advice on legal matters, and assist in resolving disputes
Legal practice: CILEX members can specialise in specific areas of law, such as family law, criminal law, conveyancing, wills and probate, litigation, or corporate law.
Legal research and analysis: Chartered Legal Executives conduct legal research, analyse statutes, case laws, regulations, and legal precedents to provide accurate and relevant information to their clients.
Client Representation: Chartered Legal Executives can provide representation in lower courts, such as the Magistrates’ Court if they have the expertise. The new CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ) will grant you the same rights to practise as a Solicitor!
2. Legal Executive vs Solicitor – What’s the difference?
The answer to this question is perhaps different now to what it would have been a decade ago.
In the past, Legal Executives took on a lot of the administrative work on behalf of Solicitors, but today they contribute directly on a far more even basis. Legal Executives can even undertake the CPQ (CILEX professional qualification) which, upon completion, puts them on the same level as a Solicitor.
However, there are a few key differences between the two:
To become a Chartered Legal Executive, individuals can follow different routes. They can study for the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) qualification while working or pursue a law degree or non-law degree followed by the CILEX Graduate Fast-Track Diploma. The CILEX qualifications focus on legal practice and cover similar areas of law as those for solicitors.
To become a solicitor, individuals must complete a law degree or non-law degree followed by a conversion course. Afterwards, they must complete the Solicitors Qualifying Exams (SQE), which provides practical training. Finally, they must undertake a training contract, typically two years, within a law firm or organisation approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Scope of practice
Chartered Legal Executives can specialise in specific areas of law, such as family law, criminal law, or property law. They have rights of audience in lower courts, including the county courts and magistrates’ courts, but they may need to work under the supervision of a solicitor or barrister when appearing in higher courts.
Solicitors have a wider scope of practice and can provide legal advice and services across various areas of law. They can represent clients in court, draft legal documents, and provide legal opinions. They have the right to exercise rights of audience in all courts, meaning they can represent clients in both lower and higher courts.
Chartered Legal Executives are regulated by the CILEX Regulation body.
Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and are members of the Law Society of England and Wales.
3. How to become a Legal Executive
You may be interested in becoming a Chartered Legal Executive, but you’ll need more than interest and good intentions; in fact, you’ll need a few things!
To become an effective Legal Executive, you’ll need the right qualifications, skills, and personal attributes.
You’ll need to obtain the necessary academic qualifications. This typically involves completing the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) qualifications, recognised by the UK law industry. These CILEX courses include:
CILEX CPQ Foundation: This is the first level of qualification and provides a foundation in legal knowledge and skills.
CILEX CPQ Advanced: This is the higher-level qualification that focuses on specific areas of law.
CILEX CPQ Professional: This is the highest CILEX qualification and offers similar rights of audience as a solicitor
Organisational and time management skills
Chartered Legal executives often handle multiple cases and tasks simultaneously. Excellent organisational and time management skills are necessary to prioritise work, meet deadlines, and efficiently manage caseloads.
Effective communication is vital in the legal field. A Legal Executive must have strong written and verbal communication skills to draft legal documents, prepare reports, correspond with clients, and present arguments. Clear and concise communication is important in conveying complex legal concepts to clients and colleagues.
Problem-solving and critical thinking
CILEX professionals should possess strong problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities. You’ll need to analyse complex legal issues, evaluate evidence, and develop creative and practical solutions for your clients.
Ethical conduct and professionalism
Upholding ethical standards and maintaining professionalism are essential qualities for legal executives. Once qualified and a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives member, you must adhere to professional codes of conduct, maintain client confidentiality, and demonstrate integrity and discretion in your work.
What do I do once I have completed my CILEX qualifications?
To become a fully qualified CILEX Legal Executive, you’ll need to complete a period of qualifying employment. This involves working in legal roles under the supervision of a solicitor, barrister, or fellow Chartered Legal Executive for a specified period. The duration of qualifying employment can vary depending on your qualifications and experience.
Finally, Once you have completed the necessary academic qualifications and work experience, you can apply for membership with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX).
4. What is the average Legal Executive salary?
The good news here is that a legal executive’s salary is significantly more than the average salary in the UK. The amount you earn will be dependent on your qualifications, experience and your locations (for example, a chartered legal executive working in London would expect to earn more).
According to studies undertaken by CILEX:
CILEX students can expect to earn between £18,000-£28,000 per year
Newly qualified legal executives earn around £38,000 per year
Experienced legal executives earn an average of £55,000 per year
However, chartered legal executives can also become partners in law firms, and partners earn an average of £125,000 per year!
Salaries: Legal Executive vs Solicitor
In the past, solicitors would have expected to earn far more than a legal executive salary. However, the demand for legal executives has increased in the past decade, as has the respect and scope of the profession. As such, Legal executive salary’s have increased and the difference in salaries between the two is far smaller with experienced legal executives earning an average of £55,000 per year and experienced solicitors earning an average of £62,000 per year.
5. Do I need a qualification to become a Legal Executive?
Yes, as mentioned earlier you will need to complete the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) qualifications, recognised by the UK law industry.
These CILEX courses include:
- CILEX CPQ Foundation: This is the first level of qualification and provides a foundation in legal knowledge and skills.
- CILEX CPQ Advanced: This is the higher-level qualification that focuses on specific areas of law.
- CILEX CPQ Professional: This is the highest CILEX qualification and offers similar rights of audience as a solicitor
Does CILEX offer any other qualifications?
If you want to work in the legal profession but aren’t interested in qualifying as a legal executive? If so, CILEX also offers qualifications in becoming a paralegal or legal secretary. Both of these roles are important to the legal profession and are in high demand.
How much does a CILEX qualification cost?
Whilst training to become a legal executive is not free, the cost of becoming qualified is significantly cheaper than training to become a solicitor. The average cost of becoming a qualified legal executive is £13,000, broken down into the following levels:
Foundation level CILEX courses – Average cost = £4,000
Advanced level CILEX courses – Average cost = £6,000
Professional level CILEX courses – Average cost = £3,000
Will my employer pay for it?
Another advantage of training to become a legal executive is that your employer may be able to help cover the cost of training, in fact, according to CILEX, over 60% of students had all or part of their course fees covered by their employer!
Cost to train: Legal executive vs Solicitor
The cost to train to become a solicitor is significantly higher than a chartered legal executive and there is little to no scope for employer funding. For starters, you must attend university to earn an LLB law degree (this costs around £27,000!). Followed by the SQEs (solicitors qualifying exams) which will cost, on average, a further £10,000. It’s also worth noting that if you wanted to become a solicitor but did a non-law degree you would also need to do a 1-year conversion course at a cost of (a further!) £10,000 on top of the SQEs and your university fees.
6. How do I find the right Legal Executive course for me?
If you do wish to become a legal executive, you’ll need to sign up for tuition from an appropriate provider.
Whilst the cost to train is not as high as other legal professions (Legal executive vs Solicitor, for example) it still costs a fair amount of money. So you’ll want to ensure that you choose the right provider who will give you the skills to pass the exam.
Here are some of the key things to look for when choosing a CILEX training provider:
Find a company approved by CILEX themselves! CILEX has rigorous acceptance standards and tuition providers must evidence a track record of success. Find approved CILEX course providers.
Comprehensive material that simplifies complex legal topics. The training provider should provide material that helps to translate complex legal terms into everyday language in a logical and simplified way. Helping you to break it all down and learn it effectively.
Experienced and knowledgeable tutors can bring any subject to life! Look for a company with tutors who have experience in both teaching AND practice, this ensures you’ll get realistic advice on how to use what you are learning in practice.
If you decide to embark on a career as a legal executive, you’ll have the chance to make a real, positive difference to your clients’ lives! Whilst it is a long (and, at times, challenging) journey to qualification, becoming a legal executive could be the best decision you ever make!
If you would like to know more about becoming a legal executive, please contact us on 08000487803, we’d love to hear from you!