What is a Legal Executive

| Career Insights

Legal executives are lawyers who practice with and under the supervision of, solicitors in law firms or in-house legal departments. Typically, legal executives will specialise in specific areas of law including wealth management, conveyancing, and civil and criminal litigation. This article will outline what is a legal executive and the day-to-day tasks they can expect to undertake, and the necessary qualifications for you to secure a career as a legal executive.

What is a Legal Executive?

Legal executives are lawyers who practice with and under the supervision of, solicitors in law firms or in-house legal departments. Typically, legal executives will specialise in specific areas of law including wealth management, conveyancing, and civil and criminal litigation. This article will outline what is a legal executive and the day-to-day tasks they can expect to undertake, and the necessary qualifications for you to secure a career as a legal executive.

What Does a Legal Executive Do?

A legal executive will typically have specialised training and as such, their practice may be limited to that area. Legal executives tend to work alongside a team of solicitors and paralegals. What is a legal executive and what are their roles?

  • Conduct research into legislation and cases to apply to claims,
  • Provide specialist legal advice,
  • Draft legal documents such as contracts,
  • Conduct client meetings and liaise with other legal professions such as barristers.

In contrast to solicitors and barristers who typically qualify as generalists and then go on to specialise post-qualification, legal executives qualify with rights of practice in at least one area of law that they have chosen to specialise in. This gives CILEx lawyers an edge as they are prepared to provide expert legal advice in specialist areas of law early on in their career, whilst it can take other legal professionals years to develop this level of expertise.

What Qualifications Does a Legal Executive Need?

Although the day-to-day tasks that a legal executive undertakes are similar to that of a solicitor, the route to qualifying as a legal executive differs from that of solicitors and barristers.

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) is the body that represents approximately 20,000 chartered legal executives. To be considered a chartered legal executive, you must successfully complete CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice and CILEx Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice. However, depending on the stage of education you are at, you may choose to complete CILEx Level 6 Fast Track Diploma in Legal Practice. This course is available to law graduates, including those who have passed their Graduate Diploma in Law. This may be a welcome alternative to becoming a barrister or solicitor for many law graduates as securing training contracts and pupillages can be extremely competitive and both the LPC and BPTC can be costly.

Some universities such as London Southbank University integrate the CILEx course into their three-year LLB law degree. This is a brilliant opportunity as it means that if you chose to take the CILEx option modules, you will graduate with your qualifying law degree and you will also have completed the necessary requirements to qualify as a legal executive.

Whilst both the integrated CILEx LLB degree course and the fast-track option may sound appealing, those who are not eligible for these quicker options should not be deterred from completing other CILEx courses available to them. Although this may be a longer route than taking a standard LLB Law degree, the CILEx courses are largely based around clinical legal education, meaning that CILEx students spend much of their learning time in practical environments such as pro bono legal clinics. This may be particularly enticing to those who are suited to a more hands-on learning environment and will provide you with a strong set of practical skills suited towards industry readiness.

Despite the CILEx route being a faster and less costly pathway into practising law, there are some drawbacks. In addition to your training, CILEx lawyers are required to complete three years of qualifying employment to be admitted as a chartered legal executive, and one of these years of experience must have been post-graduation. This presents some particular challenges as securing work experience in the legal sector can be particularly competitive. For further tips and tricks on how you can develop your skillset to secure legal work experience, please visit our work experience page.

Salary and Career Progression

Legal executives have an array of opportunities available to them to develop their careers within the legal sector as they may become partners in law firms, judges, coroners, and advocates. In addition, many legal executives find that after working at a firm for some time, they may be offered the opportunity to complete a training contract and qualify as a solicitor providing that they meet the necessary requirements.

To see how much you could be earning as a legal executive, head on over to our salary checker where you can compare salaries based on location, profession/role, and area of practice. Salaries, although not always, tend to be lower for legal executives than for solicitors and barristers due to the reserved legal undertakings available to them. Whilst salaries will vary firm-to-firm, generally, legal executives can earn £15,000 - £28,000 as a CILEx student in training and as a newly qualified chartered legal executive. However, experienced legal executives, particularly those working in larger city law firms, can expect a salary between £35,000-£55,000. Overall, the stage you are at in your career and your experience will likely determine your potential earnings.

This article should have answered the question ‘what is a legal executive’ and should empower you with the knowledge to go out and grab those legal executive opportunities.

By Jessica Baxter

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