Legal executives are the third branch of legal professionals in the UK, alongside solicitors and barristers. Legal executives have a very similar role to solicitors but only specialise in one area of law. Nevertheless, they’re still trained to the same level as solicitors in that area and work on similar cases. On top of this, legal executives can still become partners in law firms and the number of legal executive partners is constantly rising.
What skills do I need to become a legal executive?
As legal executives carry out the same activities as a solicitor, the skills you need to become a legal executive are mostly the same as those you need to become a solicitor. Therefore, excellent spoken and written communication skills, the ability to explain legal matters clearly, accuracy and attention to detail and research skills are all required alongside the ability to organise and manage your time and the ability to work well under pressure.
Just because legal executives only specialise in one area of law, this should not mean that becoming a legal executive should be seen as the ‘soft route’ to becoming a lawyer. There’s still an immense amount of work involved and you’ll need a lot of energy and stamina if you’re to handle the long working hours at a City law firm.
The academic route
There are two ways to become a legal executive, the first of which is the academic route. By doing a law degree or a non-law degree followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), you can then take the CILEx Graduate Fast-Track Diploma instead of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and work up to five years to become fully qualified. This is a notably cheaper option; the CILEx Fast-Track Diploma costs just £2000 compared to a hefty £8000 to £14,000 for the LPC.
By undertaking the Graduate Fast-Track Diploma, you need to study two level six units, one of which must relate to the subjects you studied previously. You also need to complete the Client Care Skills unit. You will then become a graduate member of CILEx and after three years of experience, you will be eligible to become a qualified lawyer and fellow of CILEx!
The apprenticeship route
The other way you could become a legal executive is by undertaking an Apprenticeship after finishing your GCSEs or A-Levels. As part of your Apprenticeship you will work in a legal environment whilst also studying for the Professional Diploma in Law and Practice, allowing you to earn as you learn. This typically takes two years to complete and following this you can study for the Professional Higher Diploma in law, a qualification that is the equivalent to a degree, but doesn’t cost nearly as much!
During the Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice, students will have to complete
After this, you’ll undergo a period of qualifying employment, after which you’ll be eligible to become a qualified lawyer and fellow of CILEx.
As you study for your qualifications on a part-time basis, you’re likely to be working as a paralegal alongside your studies. For more information on the role of the paralegal, check these articles out: