4 thoughts on “Guest Post: The New Breed of Lawyer: The Rise of the Legal Executive

  1. My advice to a student who want to be a lawyer, even a barrister, but doesn’t come from a privileged background or have connections is become a legal exec in the provinces and work your way up.
    1) Get outstanding A-levels, do an extra A-level in law in your spare time if necessary
    2) take a gap year doing something interesting so you don’t regret having never had the university or gap year experience when you’re getting burnt out by working and studying in 3 years time;
    3) get a job as a legal exec in the provinces in a small firm who will value your commitment, get paid to study on the job,
    4) do the LPC after, say, 7 years (hopefully sponsored by your employer)
    5) cross-qualify as a solicitor without the need for a training contract and then become a solicitor advocate if you want to do court appearances.

    After 3-4 years of being a legal exec you will be on a decent salary and earning bonuses. After eight years you should be on fairly good money and with a lot of experience and a good client base. A good start to being a solicitor / solicitor advocate. Will probably have earned at least £0.25M in that decade. Oh, and no student debt.

    Contrast it to a law student after eight years: three years of law – £30k debt
    LPC or BVC – another £20k debt
    2 years on lowish wages trying to find a training contract or pupillage
    if (and a big IF) all goes well, one year pupillage / 2 year training contract
    a year or so starting out as a junior lawyer

    The law student after those years will either be working in a completely unrelated field, or have perhaps one year of practice under their belt. Either way, still trying to pay down significant student loans.

    We talk about it being the highly motivated who succeed as lawyers. My advice to highly motivated 17 and 18 year olds: become a legal exec.

  2. Becoming a Barrister via the CILEx route is pretty tricky as the Bar still requires all applicants to have a degree (even if not a law degree).

    However, don’t forget that CILEx Lawyers can obtain Advocacy Rights a good deal of court work can be done without the need to cross-qualify (though Solicitor Advocates have greater rights of audience than CILEx Advocates).

    As we can also become partners and apply for Judicial appointment, in the vast majority of cases, the only remaining reason to cross-qualify is because an existing employer pays CILEx folk less or will not contemplate making them partners.

    Reversing Groucho Marx, does anyone really want to be member of a prejudiced ‘club’ where your personal worth counts for less than your qualification?

    I don’t.

  3. However, legal executives may be disadvantaged in practice by not having qualified through the traditional channels in much the same way as solicitors from new universities are not usually given the same opportunities as those from the red-brick institutions. Nevertheless, the rise of the legal executive cannot be discounted …

    Sadly, they can and will be. Red brick goes a long way in terms of the types of positions the impecunious prodigy might have in mind.

  4. I qualified as a solicitor 2 years ago via ILEX after having taken the (expensive and not very useful) LPC and gaining an exemption from a training contract. I can’t recommend it highly enough. My employer (a major international firm) has been supportive throughout.

    I wish that more potential recruits to the profession were aware of the route and the benefits it has over the traditional one. Even putting the current economic climate aside, surely it is better to chose the slightly longer route given that it offers a virtual guarantee of employment on qualification with an employer who has had a significant interest over an extended period of time with your development? A clear benefit for firms is retention; no legal exec completes their legal training with a rose tinted view.

    I was happy with my position as a legal exec and the nature of the work which I now undertake has not changed since cross-qualification. My only reason for cross-qualifying is that it became a bit galling to have to repeatedly explain that “no, I am not a paralegal. I am a qualified lawyer, akin to a solicitor”, particularly to legal professionals who should have known better.

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