Home » “What is a Legal Executive?” By Catherine Reynolds

“What is a Legal Executive?” By Catherine Reynolds

April 25, 2018,
Catherine Reynolds,
catherine reynolds

A Chartered Legal Executive is a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise in one or two particular areas of law.  To qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive you have to complete your Chartered Legal Executive training.  The qualification is assessed at honours degree level and involves applying yourself in specific areas of law.

To start the first level of training it is recommended that you have at least 4 GCSE grades C or above, including English Language or Literature. The first stage of academic training is to complete the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice.  This Diploma is made up of 10 units, 8 of which are exam-based. This course is usually studied on a part-time basis and usually takes at least 2 years to complete.  After successfully completing the Level 3 Diploma, you become an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

After successfully completing the Level 3 Diploma the next stage is to complete the CILEx Level 6 Professional Diploma in Higher Law and Practice.  This Diploma is made up of 6 units, 4 of which are exam-based. Again, this course is usually studied on a part-time basis and usually takes at least 2 years to complete.  After you have successfully completed Level 6, you become a Graduate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

To become a fully qualified Chartered Legal Executive you also need to complete 3 years’ qualifying employment. Qualifying employment includes carrying out work of a legal nature under supervision.  Qualifying employment can commence before, during or after your studies. However, the final year of the 3-year period of qualifying employment must be gained after you have successfully completed Level 6.  Once the relevant qualifying employment has been carried out, you can apply to the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives to become a Fellow.  With your application you need to submit a Portfolio of evidence demonstrating your period of qualifying employment.  Only Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives can hold themselves as fully qualified Chartered Legal Executives.

The Difference between a Chartered Legal Executive and Solicitor

A Chartered Legal Executive is a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise in one or 2 areas of law, whereas solicitors tend to have broader, more general legal training.  Contrary to popular belief, Legal Executives have studied to the same level as solicitors.  Solicitors undergo the Legal Practice Course which includes a number of compulsory legal practice subjects whereas Chartered Legal Executives usually study one legal practice subject at an advanced level and this is usually in the area in which they specialise.

Fully qualified and experienced Chartered Legal Executives are able to undertake many of the legal activities that solicitors undertake and like solicitors are able to have their own clients and represent them in court, where appropriate.  Like Solicitors, qualified Chartered Legal Executives have to adhere to a code of conduct and are responsible for their continued professional development to ensure they are kept abreast of the changes in law.

Being a fully qualified Chartered Legal Executives means that you can commission oaths, take affidavits and can appear in certain courts.  If Legal Executives wish to appear in higher courts they can but only after they have taken a separate qualification to become a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate.  This is similar to Higher Rights of Audience exams that solicitors have to take if they want to do the same but Chartered Legal Executive Advocates cannot appear in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. A Chartered Legal Executive can become a partner of a law firm and Fellows who have been qualified for more than 5 years are also eligible to apply to become a District Judge.

A Chartered Legal Executive does have the option of later qualifying as a solicitor through further vocational training.

Difference between a Chartered Legal Executive and Paralegal

Often Chartered Legal Executives can be confused with paralegals.  A Chartered Legal Executive is a qualified lawyer who is regulated by a professional body.  A Chartered Legal Executive can become a partner in a law firm, can become a coroner and a judge.  Paralegals are not regulated by a professional body.  A paralegal can refer to a wide range of personnel working in a legal environment.  For example, this could mean a legal secretary who has undertaken some training in legal practice, law graduates who have not completed a training route to become a qualified lawyer or someone who has no formal legal training but who has gained experience by working in a law firm.

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