I don’t think it is unusual for people to be unaware of the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEx) route to becoming a lawyer. Often when I tell those who are not in the legal profession that I am studying to become a Legal Executive, I am met with blank faces and questions such as, "is that the same as a Solicitor?"
Before I started my Fast Track Diploma with the (CILEx) in 2019, I knew very little about Chartered Legal Executives. I had heard mention of CILEx students in different firms I worked in previously, however I never knew how the course or role differed from that of the traditional route to becoming a Solicitor. What I have taken from having friends who are training to be Solicitors is that the studies and training are quite similar. However, CILEx is a narrower route to qualification and students pick the areas of law they wish to practice in.
Many people don’t know that Chartered Legal Executives can become partners in law firms, judges, advocates and coroners. Over 100,000 people have chosen the CILEx route since 1989 and there are over 250 Chartered Legal Executives who are partners in law firms.
Quite uniquely the CILEx course can be started by those holding GCSE’s, A-Levels or a degree. Another unique aspect of the course is that students can study the course at their own pace. Students can fast track their studies or take breaks. You do not need a training contract to become a Chartered Legal Executive and those who wish to dual qualify as a Solicitor are usually exempt from a training contract.
Many people opt to undertake their law degree with the intention of then completing the legal practice course. Having already completed my law degree, I was exempt from multiple stages of the CILEx course. In order to qualify, I have to sit two practice exams, have three years qualifying experience and create a portfolio. I chose civil litigation and family law, both of which I have experience in. However, within the years I have worked in law firms, I have moved to different areas of law to find an area that suits me and one I want to qualify into. This can make finding an area that suits you difficult and arguably leaves those studying their CILEx with less opportunity than those who have the benefit of a training contract and moving seats. Arguably, if firms were to consider giving those the opportunity to gain experience in different departments when studying, this could assist in retaining staff and lead to lawyers that are in areas of law they are passionate about.
With the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam beginning in 2021 and the traditional route changing, more young lawyers may choose to opt for the CILEx route in the future.