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Legal executives are fee-earning qualified lawyers who undertake similar work to solicitors, specialising in a specific legal area such as litigation or conveyancing.

The day-to-day role of a legal executive is similar to that of a solicitor. The training routes are different, however.

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.

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 and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives' (CILEx) Journal. Recruitment agencies occasionally advertise positions for qualified staff.

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.

There are routes into becoming a legal executive for both graduates and school leavers. For non-law graduates or school leavers, it takes on average four years to complete the academic qualifications. The minimum academic requirements for entry are four GCSEs at C grade or above including English, or equivalent qualifications.

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. It is advisable to contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to find out whether you are eligible for exemption.

To find out more about getting into law careers via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the law section of TARGETcareers, our website for school leavers.

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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