Can a legal executive become a judge?
Chartered Legal Executives are more on par with solicitors than ever, and can now become coroners, partners in law firms, and even judges. Here we look at how the latter is possible.
An introduction to CILEx
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, or CILEx, is the professional body that has traditionally represented Chartered Legal Executives (also known as Fellows).
Chartered Legal Executives are recognised as lawyers by the legal profession but usually require ‘practice rights’ to undertake all of the ‘reserved activities’ in the Legal Services Act 2007, which are:
Exercise of a right of audience
Conduct of litigation
Reserved instrument activities
Administration of oaths
CILEx offers a route to becoming a lawyer without the need for a law degree, and eliminates the need to secure a training contract or pupillage. Training is narrower, however, and Chartered Legal Executives generally specialise in a particular area of law at an early stage.
In June 2021, CILEx began to introduce a new, three-stage qualification framework, the CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ). It also introduced new titles to be used by those who successfully complete the relevant stages of the CPQ.
The first two stages – CPQ Foundation and CPQ Advanced – were introduced in June 2021, and the third stage, CPQ Professional, will be introduced in 2022. A person who completes all stages of the CPQ will now be known as a CILEx Lawyer.
Becoming a judge
It is a common misconception that only barristers can become judges. This is not the case.
Judicial appointments are open to legally qualified candidates with at least five to seven years of post-qualification experience (PQE). The Judicial Appointments Committee further specifies that this only includes candidates who have participated in ‘law-related activities’ for at least 20% of the time in any year forming part of their PQE.
Law-related activities include:
Undertaking judicial functions of any court or tribunal
Acting as an arbitrator
Practicing as a lawyer
Advising on the application of the law
Assisting persons involved in proceedings to resolve legal issues
Acting as a mediator to resolve issues that are or could be the subject of proceedings
Drafting documents intended to affect persons’ rights or obligations
Teaching or researching law
Any similar activity
This all means that, contrary to popular belief, a solicitor can become a judge even if they do not work in litigation or advocacy.
Certain other general requirements also apply. For example, candidates must either be UK, Commonwealth, or Irish citizens at the time of application and should be able to provide a reasonable length of service. This is usually deemed to be between three and five years before retirement.
Chartered Legal Executives as judges
Unlike solicitors and barristers, Chartered Legal Executives are unable to apply for senior judicial appointments higher than a district judge.
Chartered Legal Executives with five years PQE can, however, for the following judicial roles:
District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)
Deputy District Judge
Deputy District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts)
Judge of the First-tier Tribunal
Road User Charging Adjudicator
Adjudicators (regulation 17 Civil Enforcement of Parking Conventions)
CILEx offers various programmes for its members who wish to apply for judicial roles. These programmes are designed to offer a greater insight into the work and responsibilities of judges, and attempt to maximise applicants’ chances of success.