Having read all the really informative and entertaining legal executive articles on AllAboutLaw.co.uk, (we like to blow our own trumpet, don’t we?), you’ve decided that you’re not going to go to university and become riddled with student debt. Instead, you’re going to undertake a legal apprenticeship and then become a CILEx qualified legal executive.
However, as you plan your career in the legal profession, you’re wondering what the long-term differences will be from pursuing this course as opposed to becoming a solicitor after undertaking a training contract or becoming a barrister after doing a pupillage. Well, allow us to explain clearly.
What is the career progression of a legal executive?
Legal executives have exactly the same rights of audience in court as solicitors. Moreover, legal executives can also become commissioners for oaths and apply for judicial positions. CILEx members are also able to qualify as Legal Executive Advocates, providing a greater rights of audience. This can only be achieved after completing a qualification which includes an advocacy skills course and evidence test.
On top of this the Legal Services Act 2007 allows legal executives to become partners, meaning that the glass ceiling between legal executives and solicitors is slowly being removed.
Officially, legal executives can only do the work of a solicitor when supervised by a solicitor. However, in practice, legal executives tend to specialise in one area of law that tend to have lower-value cases, such as personal injury, as opposed to an area of law such as corporate or banking and finance law. This difference is generally regarded as they reason why legal executives are viewed as ‘lesser’ than solicitors but, as mentioned, the Legal Services Act 2007 seeks to remove any barriers of inequality and the fact that legal executives can become partners and undertake work in corporate law, matters of litigation and constitutional, administrative and public law.
Salary difference between a legal executive and a solicitor
When it comes to salary, there are some stark differences between legal executives and solicitors. For example, a trainee solicitor at a top city or international law firm can expect a salary between £40,000 to £60,000 whereas the starting salary for a legal executive is around £15,000, with the average salary for fully qualified legal executives is around £35,000. Though salaries for top legal executives push £100,000, there is a still a big pay gap between solicitors and legal executives. Having said this, solicitors are burdened with heaps and heaps of student debt (in the region of about £53,000, and that’s even before the LPC) whereas legal executives who did not attend university would have a maximum of around £6000 in debt and would have been ‘earning as they learn’ since leaving school.
So, that’s that! Legal executives are benefitting from increased rights and undertaking more complex work than before. There is a salary compromise but it’s certainly a career worth considering, whether you’ve studied law at university or are just leaving school.