Legal Executives: The CILEx Route
The term “CILEx” refers to the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, which qualifies legal executives. To become a Chartered Legal Executive (a Fellow of CILEx) you must have:
- completed the academic stage of training;
- been in qualifying employment for at least 3 years;
- successfully completed certain work-based learning outcomes.
Remember—if you already hold an LLB or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and you have also completed the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Professional Training Course, all of your academic study requirements will be waived, and you can become a Graduate Member of CILEx as soon as you pay the membership fees. At this point, you can proceed directly to the employment stage of qualifying as a legal executive.
The academic stage of training
The academic stage of training to become a legal executive differs depending on whether you hold an LLB or GDL, or you hold a degree in some other subject. You must register with CILEx before beginning your academic training:
- If you hold a non-law university degree without a Graduate Diploma in Law
- If you do not hold either a law degree or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the academic stage of your training must include:
- 10 units of the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice; and
- 6 units of the CILEx Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice.
One of the major advantages of this system is its flexibility—you can study full-time, part-time while working, or even utilise distance learning. If you study part-time, you can expect to complete your academic qualifications within about four years, while spending only a fraction of the money you would spend at an equivalent stage of solicitor training. Since you can earn while you learn, your debt should be much lower than it would be if you took the solicitor’s route.
If you already hold an LLB or GDL
If you do hold either a law degree or a GDL, part of your academic requirements can be waived, In particular, you can embark on the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma, which will allow you to waive all of the Level 3 subjects and some of the Level 6 subjects, thereby reducing your total time investment from four years to around nine months, even while studying part-time.
Your academic program will consist of two CILEx Level 6 practice units, one of which must be related to a subject you studied in law school, plus Client Care Skills. You will be able to choose from among the following options:
- Civil Litigation
- Criminal Litigation
- Employment Law
- Company and Partnership Law
- Family Law
- Client Care Skills (mandatory)
Once you have completed the academic requirements, you will become a Graduate Member of CILEx.
In addition to qualifying academically and becoming a Graduate Member of CILEx, you must also complete both the qualifying employment requirements and the Work-Based Learning Portfolio. At that point, you can become a CILEx Fellow, which makes you a fully qualified legal executive.
You must complete at least three years of qualifying employment, which must be wholly legal in nature, performed at least 20 hours per week, and conducted under the supervision of a legal executive or a solicitor. You cannot complete all three years of qualifying employment at the same time that you are completing your academic requirements.
At least one year of your qualifying employment must occur after you become a Graduate Member of CILEx, and you must have completed at least two consecutive years of qualifying employment in the two years immediately preceding your application to become a CILEx Fellow.
To meet your Work-Based Learning requirements, you must prove that you meet eight core competencies, which are composed of a total of 27 learning outcomes. The eight core competencies are:
- Practical application of the law and legal practice;
- Communication skills;
- Client relations;
- Workload management;
- Commercial awareness;
- Professional conduct (legal ethics);
- Self-awareness and development; and
- Working with others.
The 27 learning outcomes include skills such as using suitable language in communication, providing clear legal advice to clients, and establishing working relationships with others. Your employer must sign off on all of these competencies and outcomes, and they must be supported by documentary evidence.
From legal executive to solicitor
Qualifying as a legal executive does not prevent you from later qualifying as a solicitor—and if you do make that decision, many of your legal executive qualifications can be used to qualify as a solicitor. If you are a fully qualified legal executive before you complete the LPC, you should be exempt from the two-year training contract. Instead, you will need to complete the LPC and pass some law-related courses within certain time limits set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
All in all, the CILEx route is a more flexible, less competitive and less expensive way to become a lawyer. Employment prospects are bright, and even if you change your mind in mid-stream, it is still possible to qualify as a solicitor. For all of these reasons, the CILEx route is the best plan of action for many aspiring lawyers.