Legal executive – Do I need to go to university?

  • Last updated Jul 11, 2017 1:47:16 PM
  • By Billy Sexton and Becky Kells, Editors,

Your deepest desire is to land yourself a career in law, however the competition surrounding the training contract and pupillage process is slightly off-putting to say the least. What are your options? Become a paralegal? That’s certainly a possibility and shouldn’t be looked down upon, especially since recent changes in the legal industry means that paralegals can now become solicitors later in their career.

Another option is to become a legal executive. These dudes and dudettes carry out similar work to a solicitor, but only tend to specialise in one area of law. Don’t worry, you can still become a partner of a law firm if you’re a legal executive and you’ll still take home a tidy amount of money every month.

Sound good? Amazing. Here are the routes to becoming a legal executive.

University route

Right, so you’re eager to experience student lifestyle. You may even be a student already, studying a law degree or even a non-law degree. Once you’ve finished juggling your time between lectures, nightclubs and your bed, you can apply to the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma, with no need to spend nearly as much money as you would on the LPC or BPTC. If you have a non-law undergraduate degree, you’ll have to study for the GDL before undertaking the CILEx course.

Costing around £3000, the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma is significantly cheaper than the LPC and BPTC, and you also have the option to study full-time, part-time or via distance learning. This means you can work in legal practice and get some qualifying employment under your belt before becoming a Chartered Legal Executive and a CILEx fellow. Earning as you learn also means you can sidestep even more student debt.

Following the diploma, you will need to undertake three years of qualifying employment

Non-university route

Whether you’re still at school or have decided to leave university but still want to pursue a legal career, there are CILEx options open to you also! Legal apprenticeships are a great option for school leavers, and will involve working as a junior paralegal. The new Trailblazer apprenticeships landed in 2016, and it's now even easier to progress to the Legal Executive level without going to university. 

Apprenticeships are a way to earn while you learn, so if the cost of uni fees is seriously putting you off, this is the route for you!

Once you’ve completed the Level 3 Paralegal qualification, you can undertake the Level 6 Chartered Legal Executive Apprenticeship. Here you’ll be required to demonstrate a broad understand of three areas of law and for one of these areas, you need to show you have a practical understanding of the legal practice that arises from the law.

Once you've completed this five year course, you’re good to go as a fully chartered Legal Executive! No need to go to university, but if you do, there’s also no need to go through the ordeal of hunting for a training contract and coughing up LPC fees! 

You can read more about the new Trailblazer apprenticeships here.

More like this

  • Legal executive salaryBy Billy Sexton, Editor,

    Having read all the really informative and entertaining legal executive articles on, (we like to blow our own trumpet, don’t we?), you’ve decided that you’re not going to go to

  • What is a legal executive?By Adrian Mason, Principal of Advance CPD & CILEx Chief Examiner

    The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) was founded in 1892 and became a company limited by guarantee in 1963 with the support of The Law Society. It's the body responsible for the training

  • Legal Executives: A Brief HistoryWritten by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

    You can trace the history of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) back to the 19th century. Its predecessor, Managing Clerks, was founded in 1892 and featured in Victorian and