How to Become a Chartered Legal Executive
In the UK, 'lawyer' is a general term for anyone licenced to practise law; in England and Wales, this includes chartered legal executives. They undertake similar work to solicitors and can qualify to represent clients in court as a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate, or become judges.
The main difference in training to become a chartered legal executive is that students choose one area of legal practice in which to specialise, rather than the broader training for solicitors. Qualifications are awarded by CILEx (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) while the sector is regulated by CILEx Regulation. If you aren't sure if this is the law career for you, see our brief overview on the work of solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives.
- In-work CILEx training for those employed in the sector
- Trailblazer Chartered Legal Executive apprenticeship
- Qualifying law degree with CILEx legal practice units
- Graduate Fast Track Diploma (for those with a law degree or law conversion course)
As with solicitors and barristers, a period of work-based Qualifying Employment is also required. This can be gained during the training or afterwards. Those with a solicitors' Legal Practice Course or barristers' Bar Professional Training Course require no further qualifications, they simply complete three years qualifying employment to become a chartered legal executive.
Fellows of CILEx are qualified lawyers. They are awarded an annual practising certificate and must undertake CPD each year. With further training, they can also apply to become a solicitor or barrister.
How to become a chartered legal executive
CILEx qualifications can be studied at the same time as working – the employer may in some cases fund the training. Qualifications include the Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice, which is set at A Level standard, and the Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice, assessed at honours degree level.
The Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice has ten units in total, with four core units in contract law, criminal law, land law and law of tort, and two in professional skills. Students can also take units in areas of interest. Normally it is completed in two years.
The Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice comprises one legal practice unit along with the linked law unit, plus a choice of two other law units and two professional skills units. One of the law units must be in the area of law where the student is in practice. Please refer to the CILEx website for options available. Normally it is completed in two years. Three years’ qualifying employment are then required to become a chartered legal executive.
Another option that includes the two Diplomas in Law and Practice, is the Trailblazer Apprenticeship:
Aimed at those with no legal experience, this five-year degree-level apprenticeship is offered by employers working in partnership with training organisations. The costs of training are paid by the employer. Apprentices will complete Level 3 and Level 6 Diplomas in Law and Practice (see above). They finish with a final assessment by CILEx, completing an extended case study. The apprenticeship includes the required qualifying employment.
This four-year LLB in Legal Practice incorporates CILEx legal practice units: on completion, only qualifying employment is required to become a chartered legal executive. As this is a qualifying law degree (QLD) approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, students can also train to become a solicitor or barrister.
What does the LLB in Legal Practice cover?
As a QLD, the degree covers the seven foundation subjects of legal knowledge. In addition, students must study two practice-based units, at least one relating to an area of law theory already studied. Eligible units are: civil litigation, conveyancing, criminal litigation, probate practice, family practice, employment practice and company practice. Other electives include the law of evidence (required in Northern Ireland), or a dissertation.
Assessments are by three-hour exams. These can be multiple-choice questions, or ‘takeaway exams’ where the student is given a scenario and must submit their response by a given time. Students must achieve at least 50% in each legal practice exam to gain membership of CILEx.
About the course
The course is run by City, University of London, in partnership with CILEx Law School. It is taught online via supported distance learning, with some attendance at City University’s premises in London (for induction, revision weekends and exams).
The course is quite structured: students spend around 6–7 hours per week on self-directed learning for each module, with a clear weekly plan of work set out on the VLE (virtual learning environment, online). The academic year is longer than for normal undergraduate courses, with holiday periods where no teaching is scheduled.
Entry requirements and applications
The course is intended for working professionals, allowing them to work while studying online. Entry requirements are A Levels or the equivalent at the required standard, or CILEx legal qualifications. A good standard of English is required. Applications are made direct to CILEx Law School.
How much does the LLB in Legal Practice cost? Is funding available?
Annual fees in 2018 are £4,750 for UK students; overseas students are subject to an additional fee to cover increased admin costs. Government tuition fee loans are available, depending on eligibility.
After the course
Three years’ qualifying employment are required to become a chartered legal executive. One year must be completed after graduation but, as the course is delivered by distance learning, students can work towards the other two years while studying for the degree.
Alternatively, students can progress into the vocational training to become a solicitor or barrister.
Graduates with a qualifying law degree (QLD) or law conversion course (GDL/CPE) can take the CILEx Graduate Fast Track Diploma to study the practical application of law. There is no time limit after a qualifying law degree or law conversion course for taking the CILEx Graduate Fast Track Diploma.
What the Graduate Fast-track Diploma covers:
Students complete two Level 6 practice units from a choice of options, plus the compulsory Level 6 Client Care Skills unit. Options available depend on the course provider.
Practice units focus on how law is applied in real-life situations, to advise the client and consider the related practical issues. Students must take one practice unit relating to a legal subject studied on their law degree or law conversion course. For example, conveyancing relates to land law studied at degree level. Practice units include company and partnership law, employment law, family law, probate practice, civil and criminal litigation.
The compulsory unit on client care skills focuses on negotiation skills, good practice in legal writing, complaints management and professional ethics.
Assessment for the compulsory unit is through coursework, with exams for the practice units. There are two exam sessions per year, taken at CILEx accredited exam centres. Each exam is three hours and is based on a case scenario given to students ahead of the exam. CILEx sets the exams and awards the qualification on completion of all three units. The qualification is formally awarded as the CILEx Level 6 Diploma in Legal Practice.
About the Graduate Fast-track Diploma
The course is run at CILEx accredited centres or via supported distance learning through a number of providers.
The Graduate Fast Track Diploma usually takes nine months to one year, though it can be as short as six months part-time. Most courses start in September. Distance learning courses can be started at any time of year. Modules must be completed within a set period of time, which varies by provider. Distance learning is possible for overseas candidates but they must organise and pay for their own external examination centres.
Entry requirements and applications
Entry requires a qualifying law degree or law conversion course recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). After enrolling on the course, applicants must register with CILEx as an Associate Member (ACILEx), paying exemption and membership fees. This must be done by the required deadline.
Fees and funding
In 2017–18 fees were around £3,183 (depending on provider; fees vary considerably). This includes course fees (paid to the course provider) plus exam or assessment fees and membership fees (paid to CILEx).
Fees can be paid by instalments to spread the cost; sometimes employers may support a student’s studies. Otherwise there may the option of a Career Development Loan.
After the course, three years’ qualifying employment are required to become a practising chartered legal executive.
Three years of qualifying employment are required in order to qualify as a practising chartered legal executive, during which a portfolio of evidence is built. Qualifying employment can begin during studies. The final year must take place following the completion of Level 6 academic qualifications, after becoming a Graduate member of CILEx. The final two years must run consecutively.
Legal duties must be carried out for a minimum of 20 hours per week, e.g. as a paralegal. The work must be supervised by an authorised person such as a solicitor, legal executive or barrister.
On completion of the qualifying employment, Graduate members of CILEx can apply to become a Fellow of CILEx and practise as a chartered legal executive.
Those who have completed a Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors, or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers do not require further training. They can become a Graduate Member of CILEx, simply requiring three years qualifying employment to become a Fellow.
Chartered Legal Executives also have the opportunity to apply to become a solicitor or – if they are a chartered legal executive advocate – a barrister.
Applying to become a solicitor
Chartered legal executives can apply to take the Legal Practice Course – or, from 2020, take the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). For entry as a solicitor, they must provide a Certificate of Good Standing from CILEx, dated within three months of the application, and also a certified copy of their LPC and relevant Professional Skills qualifications. They do not require the period of recognised training as a solicitor and may be exempted from the Professional Skills course.
Find out more about how to become a solicitor.
Applying to become a barrister
Chartered legal executive advocates can apply to transfer to the Bar of England and Wales. If they have three years of regular court experience they may be exempted from academic, vocational and possibly professional requirements of entry. They must provide a Certificate of Good Standing from CILEx, dated within three months of the application along with original copies of academic certificates and of their rights to practise in higher courts. If the application is accepted, they will then sit all or part of the Bar Transfer Test. They may also require a period of pupillage (in-work training as a barrister) or further training.