Jan 16, 2023

Written By Claudia Chan

How does a chartered legal executive become a solicitor?

Jan 16, 2023

Written By Claudia Chan

There are several alternative routes to becoming a solicitor, such as through becoming a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer. This article seeks to explain how a Chartered Legal Executive becomes a solicitor.

What is a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer?

A Chartered Legal Executive is a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise in one or two specific areas of law in England and Wales. While they share the same rights as solicitors under the Legal Services Act, in practice they differ slightly from a solicitor. Chartered Legal Executive lawyers are more specialist. In contrast, solicitors are more ‘generalist’ in nature: they tend to have received broader, more general legal training.

The main difference between CILEX lawyers and solicitors is the route to qualification and training, with CILEX lawyers qualifying through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, or CILEX.

Being fully qualified and experienced, Chartered Legal Executive lawyers are able to undertake much of the work that solicitors do. For example, they can have their own clients and represent them in court - subject to certain limitations like being unable to appear in the High Court, Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. However, they can become judges, coroners, advocates and partners in law firms.

Chartered Legal Executive lawyers belong to The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX): a professional association consisting of approximately 20,000 Chartered Legal Executive lawyers, paralegals and other legal practitioners in England and Wales.

How does a Chartered Legal Executive become a solicitor?

According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), a Chartered Legal Executive can qualify as a solicitor through the Chartered Legal Executive Equivalent Means Route until December 2032. The SRA introduced transitional arrangements to enable those eligible to continue to qualify in this way until 2032.

These arrangements apply if you have completed, started or accepted an offer of place for:

- A qualifying law degree (accepted by 21 September 2021)

- The Common Professional Examination (CPL) / Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) (accepted before 1 September 2021)

- The Legal Practice Course (LPC) (accepted before 1 September 2021)

Requirements to qualify through this route

The rules on switching from legal executive to solicitor are flexible - it is possible to complete the LPC before or after becoming a member of CILEX.

You will not have to complete a period of recognised training (a training contract) if you:

- Meet the SRA’s academic stage requirements through study, or any exemptions granted

- Have completed the LPC

- Completed the core elements of the Professional Skills Course

In order to qualify as a solicitor, you would need to provide evidence of your status as a qualified Chartered Legal Executive to the SRA. Please check the SRA website for a detailed list of requirements when applying for admission.

Qualifying through the Solicitors Qualifying Exam

If you are a CILEX member and the LPC route is not possible (as you fail to meet the SRA’s transitional arrangements), you can still qualify as a solicitor through the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

After you have validated your degree, level 6 qualification, or equivalent, you must pass both SQE1 and SQE2. Then, you must record and confirm two years qualifying work experience in up to four organisations. Your CILEX experience typically counts towards this.

Once you have applied and received your results, you can apply to be admitted to the roll of solicitors. This process involves: having your degree checked by the SRA, registering your work experience and a character and suitability check.