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Legal executive: job description

Legal executive: job description

Legal executives are fee-earning qualified lawyers who undertake similar work to solicitors, specialising in a specific legal area such as litigation or conveyancing.
They often do much of the same work as solicitors.

What does a legal executive do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Work varies according to specialism but typical duties include:

  • litigation
  • assisting solicitors
  • giving legal advice
  • researching and preparing cases
  • writing legal documents
  • High Court or county court work
  • dealing with legal matters such as writing wills, property conveyancing, custody cases and divorce settlements

The day-to-day role of a legal executive is similar to that of a solicitor; however, the training route to become a legal executive is narrower than for a solicitor. Solicitors complete the legal practice course, in which the study of many legal practice subjects is compulsory. Chartered legal executives specialise early and study one legal practice subject to an advanced level.

Legal executives, like solicitors, need to keep up-to-date with changes and developments in the law and are required to complete training throughout their careers. They are eligible for judicial posts and, under the 2007 Legal Services Act, can become partners or managers in certain practices, although as of July 2013 they have not been granted independent practice rights.

Training as a legal executive is cheaper and less competitive than for a solicitor; it is possible to go on to qualify as a solicitor after becoming chartered.

Typical employers of legal executives

  • Private practice solicitors' firms
  • Local authorities
  • Legal departments
  • Industrial and commercial organisations

Jobs are advertised in specialist publications including Law Society Gazette, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives Journal (CILEx Journal) and The Lawyer. Recruitment agencies occasionally advertise positions for qualified staff. TARGETjobs Law and the Law Society's regional directories can provide useful contact information for networking and speculative applications.

Qualifications and training required

To become a legal executive you must become a fellow of The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). This can be attained by passing the CILEx professional qualification in law and completing a minimum of three years' supervised legal experience. You train while you work, through day-release to a local college, part-time working/studying or distance learning. The minimum academic requirements for entry are four GCSEs at C grade or above, including English – or qualifications at an equivalent level.

If you have a law degree, you can complete the CILEx’s graduate ‘fast-track’ diploma to become a chartered legal executive lawyer; the diploma takes around nine months of part-time study.

CILEx fellows wishing to become solicitors are often exempt from undertaking the two-year training contract and some of the academic qualifying stage, enabling entry directly onto the legal practice course without the need for a CPE/GDL conversion course. If you complete a law degree and the LPC before becoming a chartered legal executive you will not be exempt from the solicitors' training contract.

Key skills for legal executives

  • Independence
  • Teamworking
  • Organisation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Discretion
  • Investigative skills
  • Negotiating skills
  • Ability to work under pressure

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