Articles From the Team

Should I qualify as a Legal Executive?

Is it better to qualify as a solicitor or legal executive? I know what answer you’ll give me, but why?

Prior to recruitment, I trained towards becoming a Legal Executive so you can imagine which side of the fence I am on.

This was a good few years ago now and whilst there were a few legal executives who I was able to seek guidance from along the way, the very obvious reality was that solicitors ruled the legal world, and legal executives stood in their wake.

Over the past 10 years things have notably changed but it still infuriates me to find that legal executives are not given the same status and standing to that of a solicitor. What actually makes them different? Answer: not a lot, but I still find myself asking my clients, would you consider a legal executive for the role that you are ideally seeking a solicitor to fill.

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) is recognised as one of the three professional bodies of the legal profession, alongside the Bar Council and the Law Society. The role of a chartered legal executive lawyer is now so similar to that of a solicitor that the average client is unlikely to be able to distinguish between them. In fact, many chartered legal executives supervise solicitors! This is because whilst solicitors have very general training, a legal executive has chosen to specialise in one or two particular areas of law.

Since early 2015, CILEx has been able to grant its members additional rights of audience to conduct litigation in a number of disciplines independently of solicitors; again, working towards narrowing the gap between legal executives and solicitors.

The struggle to gain recognition for legal executives is ongoing. In as recent as 2007 the Tribunal Courts and Enforcement Act removed the restrictions on legal executives becoming certain types of judges and the Legal Services Act 2009 said that legal executives could finally become partners in law firms. Now, on the back of these monumental legislation changes a lot of worthy individuals can sit in senior positions having chartered legal executive status, meaning that the opportunities for legal executives, alongside their solicitor counterparts, is also limitless.

Did you know that chartered legal executives are found in over 60% of The Lawyer’s list of top 200 UK law firms?

CILEx is finally being recognised as a genuine alternative to those costly years spent qualifying as a solicitor. Clyde & Co became the latest big named law firm to get involved in launching legal apprenticeships offered via CILEx. The individuals who start these apprenticeships will qualify as chartered legal executives in four years time via a combination of qualifying employment (i.e. on the job training) and study.

With the financial costs of qualifying as a solicitor knocking on for circa £40k in combination with the stress thereafter when seeking a training contract in an evermore competitive market, taking the legal executive route to qualification is now a viable alternative for those individuals seeking a career in law.

Other large firms are now getting involved in offering legal apprenticeships include Kennedys, DAC Beachcroft, Weightmans, Addleshaw Goddard, Shoosmiths and Thomas Eggar.

Whilst we are closing the gap in terms of perception externally of the differences between legal executives and solicitors, internally the battle continues to get recognition in their bank accounts! My own personal experience of the pay gap between legal executives and solicitors was stark. This has, again, notably changed in recent years but it is still the case that legal executives are paid on average less than their solicitor counter-parts despite across most disciplines the firm charging solicitors and legal executives out at the same rate. For me, this doesn’t make any sense and so for anyone reading my blog (anyone…?), rest assured I am fighting for equality across the profession.

If you wish to have a chat about your options, be it as a solicitor or legal executive, please get in touch. I specialise in placing all types of legal professional in a range of disciplines across the East Midlands and East Anglia.

For more information contact BCL Legal or call 0845 241 0933.

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