Is a legal executive the same as a solicitor?
Many people think that the main way to pursue a fulfilling legal career is by becoming either a solicitor or a barrister. However, in the UK you can also qualify as a legal executive and carry out similar duties to a solicitor on a daily basis.
What do legal executives do on a day-to-day basis?
Legal executives are fully trained legal professionals who commonly specialise in one specific area of law early on in their training. They can specialise in the same areas of law as other lawyers such as, but not limited to: family law, immigrant law, public law, employment law.
The main duties of a legal executive are also similar to that of a solicitor and can include drafting documents and advising and interacting with their clients.
Legal executives can work in law firms, for government legal services or in-house for corporations.
Fully qualified legal executives can commission oaths and can qualify as solicitors or become a judge in court. They can also progress to partner level in a law firm and share in the profit pool. This is something that is happening increasingly in the legal sector.
What is the route to qualifying as a legal executive?
Becoming a legal executive requires academic and vocational training with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, otherwise known as CILEx.
The route to becoming a legal executive is fully flexible and there are many different routes which can be pursued and they all lead to the same end position. It does not matter too much if you have a qualifying degree or in fact, any degree at all. There is definitely an option for almost every situation.
The Level 3 Diploma Professional in Law and Practice is a fully vocational route and is equal to A-level Law. Following this, you can complete a degree level course which is called the Level 6 Diploma.
Alternatively, if you already have a law degree or have completed a post-graduate diploma in law, you can take the CILEx Fast-Track Graduate Diploma. It is an alternative to SQE exams and Bar Training Courses (BTC) and there is no need to have secured a training contract or pupillage in advance.
It is also necessary to undertake three years of work experience in order to qualify. You must work for at least 20 hours a week and be supervised by a qualified legal professional such as a solicitor, legal executive or a barrister.
How is a legal executive different from a solicitor?
Although much of the actual work carried out by legal executives and solicitors is similar, there are still some differences between the two professions.
One of the main differences is that it costs a lot less and it is a lot less competitive to qualify as a legal executive. Therefore, it is a good route into the legal career, especially as you do not have to do the SQE.
There are also some duties which a legal executive cannot legally perform, unless they work for a solicitor’s law firm and are under the supervision of a fully qualified solicitor. These duties include litigation, conveyancing, probate activities and acting as notaries.
Do solicitors earn higher salaries than legal executives?
On average, legal executives earn between £35,000 to £50,000 a year, meaning that often they do earn less than solicitors. However, this is not true across all firms and workplaces. For some, becoming a legal executive is a better way to eventually qualify as a solicitor without amassing huge amounts of debt along the way.