If you're keen to work as a lawyer in a particular area of law and want to earn as you learn, then a career as a chartered legal executive may be for you

Chartered legal executives are qualified lawyers who specialise in a particular area of law. You'll provide legal support and advice to clients, who can be individuals, groups, public sector organisations or private companies. You'll take instructions from clients and advise on necessary courses of legal action.

The most common specialist areas are:

  • civil and criminal litigation
  • conveyancing and property law
  • corporate law
  • employment law and practice
  • family law
  • legal practice
  • public law
  • private client.

In order to work as a chartered legal executive, you'll need to complete one of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) routes to qualification. Once qualified, you're eligible to become a partner in a law firm and to share the firm's profits.

There are opportunities throughout England and Wales, but the role doesn't exist in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Responsibilities

As a chartered legal executive, you'll need to:

  • advise clients and explain complex legal matters to them
  • correspond with, and on behalf of, your clients
  • negotiate on your clients' behalf
  • interview and advise clients and witnesses
  • analyse, research and summarise legal information
  • research information for the preparation of legal documents
  • liaise with fellow professionals from courts, legal practices, banks and accountancy firms
  • contact professionals, like mortgage lenders, planning officers or other lawyers, on behalf of your clients
  • conduct advocacy in County and Magistrates' Courts
  • act as commissioners for oaths for the swearing of legal documents
  • attend court to assist barristers and solicitors with the presentation of cases
  • prepare accounts on behalf of a legal practice
  • keep up to date with changing legislation
  • file and index paperwork
  • assign and supervise the work of junior staff.

Examples of tasks related to a specialist area of work include:

  • advising and preparing documentation on the legal aspects of setting up a new business
  • drawing up wills and drafting contracts
  • calculating inheritance tax, working out the sums and explaining the terms of wills to beneficiaries
  • preparing documentation for the conveyancing of property, matrimonial, probate and/or litigation work.

Salary

  • As a CILEx student, you'll earn between £15,000 and £28,000.
  • After completing the CILEx qualification, your salary can rise to £38,000.
  • Once you've got the required three years of relevant work experience, you can earn in the range of £35,000 to £55,000. Senior chartered legal executives can earn more than this, especially if working in a large city or as a partner in a firm.

Salaries vary depending on your employer, location and type of work.

Income data provided by CILEx. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll typically work standard office hours Monday to Friday, although you may need to work longer hours with occasional weekend work.

Part-time work and career break opportunities are available.

What to expect

  • The work is office based, but you may need to visit clients in courts and police stations.
  • Jobs are available in towns and cities in England and Wales.
  • Once you've gained experience, you may be able to work on a self-employed or freelance basis, for example as a licensed conveyancer.
  • The job carries the responsibilities associated with the legal field and may be challenging at times.
  • You should be smartly dressed when interviewing clients or attending court.

Qualifications

To work as a chartered legal executive, you'll need to complete one of the CILEx routes to qualification.

If you don't already have a degree in law or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), you'll need to complete two stages of CILEx qualifications:

  • CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice: the first stage of academic training is set at A-level standard and is designed to give you a good grounding in all core areas of law. You'll need a minimum of four GCSEs grade C or above, including English Language or Literature, or equivalent.
  • CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice: the second stage is set at honours degree level, where you'll study six subjects, including one legal practice unit and the mandatory professional skills units. You can study at your own pace and take a break from study if needed.

Once you've finished the Level 6 qualification, you'll become a graduate member of CILEx and will need to complete a three-year period of qualifying employment under the supervision of a solicitor, senior chartered legal executive, barrister or licensed conveyancer.

Work carried out before or during your studies can count towards the qualifying employment, but the final year must be completed after you've finished the Level 6 qualification. The final two years must be worked consecutively. You're then eligible to become a qualified lawyer and fellow of CILEx.

If you've already got a qualifying law degree or GDL, you should take the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma (GFTD) (Level 6 Diploma in Legal Practice) to complete the academic part of the qualification. You'll only need to study two units from the range of Level 6 practice subjects (one of which must relate to what you studied during your law degree) and the Level 6 client care skills unit. The course typically takes nine months to one year, part time. You'll then be eligible to become a Graduate Member of CILEx and complete the qualifying employment period.

Find out more about how to qualify as a chartered legal executive.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • excellent communication skills
  • analytical and problem-solving skills
  • commercial awareness and negotiating skills
  • the ability to plan work and prioritise tasks
  • interpersonal skills, to work as part of a team or with other people and organisations
  • administrative, numeracy and IT skills
  • the ability to work with discretion
  • attention to detail
  • good research skills
  • the ability to work under pressure.

Work experience

Many of those who start the CILEx qualification route are already in employment in the legal sector and get financial support from their employer.

If you're new to the sector try to get some work experience either before or during your studies, as this will improve your chances of finding permanent employment once you're qualified.

Employers

Typical employers are medium to large-sized firms of solicitors, including:

  • high street practices, dealing with legal matters in the local community
  • medium-sized firms, combining private client and commercial work
  • large commercial firms catering for business clients.

Local authorities also employ chartered legal executives in areas such as litigation and advocacy. There are also jobs available in the Civil Service and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), dealing with issues of public legal concern.

You can find work in the legal departments of large industrial and commercial organisations, such as private utilities and financial institutions, dealing with commercial issues, such as finance, employment and property. It's also possible to work on legal issues for charities.

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

Professional development

Once qualified, you must do further training and development activities throughout your career. As a member of CILEx, you're required to complete nine continuing professional development (CPD) activities per year. At least one of these needs to be in professionalism, which relates to you as a professional person, rather than the area of law you work in.

CPD activities include attending training seminars, conferences and networking events provided in-house by your employer or through organisations such as:

You may undertake coaching or mentoring to further your skills, as well as delivering training to students. There are also opportunities to write articles or research papers for journals and to take further study and research at postgraduate level.

If you're looking to move into more senior positions, CILEx also provides business skills courses and tailored training through myCareer.

Career prospects

There are good career prospects for qualified chartered legal executives. As you gain experience and expertise, you can progress to more complex cases and build a comprehensive client base. This can lead to opportunities to run your own specialist department in a legal firm, supervising other chartered legal executives, student legal executives, administrative staff and junior solicitors. In smaller practices, you may become practice manager. With experience, you can apply for additional practice rights and set up your own CILEx-regulated firm.

Alternatively, you may choose to train and qualify as a chartered legal executive advocate, which provides you with extended rights of audience in civil, criminal and family proceedings and means you can represent clients in several courts, including County and Magistrates’ Courts. You'll also manage cases from start to finish.

With five years' post-qualification experience, you can apply for some judicial appointments, including deputy district judge, employment judge and district judge.

You also have the option to become a solicitor after one or two years of becoming a Fellow of CILEx. Fellows are usually exempt from the two-year training contract needed to become a solicitor.