Legal Executive

The Job and What's Involved

Legal executives work in England and Wales. They are qualified lawyers who do similar work to solicitors and specialise in particular areas of the law. Their work is charged directly to the client.

Although they can be involved in many areas of law, the most common areas of specialism are:

Conveyancing - the legal side of buying and selling property.

Family - advising on divorces and matters affecting children.

Crime - defending and prosecuting people accused of crimes.

Company and business law - advising clients on legislation that affects their business such as tax, contracts and employment law.

Litigation - where a client is in dispute with someone else.

Probate - dealing with wills, trusts and inheritance tax.

Personal injury - handling accident claims.

The work of a legal executive varies depending on their specialism, but may include:

  • Explaining complex legal matters to clients.
  • Advising clients how the law applies to their case or transaction.
  • Analysing, researching and summarising legal documents.
  • Preparing documents for work such as the conveyancing of property, probate and litigation.
  • Drawing up wills.
  • Drafting contracts.
  • Representing clients in county and magistrates' courts in civil and criminal proceedings.

Legal executives usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They may sometimes have to work evenings or weekends and, in some cases, shifts.

They are mainly office based, but some travel to visit courts and police stations may be required. Smart dress is expected, particularly for court work.

A driving licence may be useful.

The starting salary for a legal executive may be between £14,000 and £20,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Legal executives work with firms of solicitors, local authorities, the Civil Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, and in industry and commerce. There are around 23,000 people registered with the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), of which 7,000 are Fellows (qualified legal executives).

There are opportunities in all parts of England and Wales. Although there is fierce competition for training places, opportunities for qualified legal executives are good. There are no legal executives in Scotland, and there is no Scottish professional body equivalent to ILEX.

Vacancies for legal executives are advertised in national newspapers, The Legal Executive, The Law Society Gazette and The Lawyer, and on the internet.

Education and Training

To be fully qualified and use the title legal executive, it is necessary to be a Fellow of ILEX. To become a fellow, applicants must:

  • Pass the membership exams (the Professional Higher Diploma in Law), and be a member of ILEX.
  • Work for five years in qualifying legal employment - two of these five years must take place after passing the examinations.

School leavers may be able to start straight from school by getting clerical work in a law firm and studying towards the first set of ILEX exams.

The minimum academic requirements are four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and three subjects from ILEX's approved subjects list, or equivalent qualifications. Check with ILEX for full details. Many new entrants are aged 18 or over, and have more than the minimum qualifications. Some have degrees.

The ILEX examinations normally take four years to complete through part-time study. Candidates with a law degree may be able to claim exemption from some of the examinations. In this case, the remaining legal practice examinations normally take about 12 months to pass.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Trainee legal executives normally work under the supervision of a solicitor, employed barrister or senior legal executive. They usually study while they are working, through day release, evening classes or distance learning via the ILEX Tutorial College.

The ILEX examinations are in two parts:

Part one is the Professional Diploma in Law (Level 3) and provides a broad introduction to the main areas of law and legal practice.

Part two is the Professional Higher Diploma in Law (Level 4) and covers degree-level study in one of the main specialisms - conveyancing, probate, civil litigation, criminal litigation, matrimonial practice or company practice.

After qualifying, legal executives must undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in a range of legal topics.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A legal executive should:

  • Be able to explain legal matters clearly to a wide range of people.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Have good analytical and problem-solving skills.
  • Be a good communicator in speech and writing.
  • Have good administrative skills.
  • Be well organised.
  • Be numerate.
  • Have computer skills.
  • Be discreet.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are opportunities for legal executives to run their own departments, managing other executives, administrative staff and junior solicitors. It may be possible to become an associate in a law firm. Fellows may go on to become advocates, appearing in the County and Magistrates' Courts.

Qualified legal executives can also become solicitors, and the ILEX training route may be used as entry to the final stages of the qualification scheme for solicitors.

Get Further Information

The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX),
Kempston Manor, Kempston,
Bedfordshire MK42 7AB
Tel: 01234 841000
Websites: www.ilex.org.uk and
www.ilex-tutorial.ac.uk

The Law Careers Advice Network (LCAN)
Website: www.lcan.org.uk

The Law Society, Information Services,
Ipsley Court, Berrington Close, Redditch,
Worcestershire B98 0TD
Tel: 01527 504433
Website: www.lawsociety.org.uk

The Law Society of Northern Ireland,
Law Society House, 98 Victoria Street, Belfast BT1 3JZ
Tel: 02890 231614
Website: www.lawsoc-ni.org

The Law Society of Scotland,
26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7YR
Tel: 0131 226 7411
Website: www.lawscot.org.uk

Skills for Justice,
9-11 Riverside Court,
Don Road, Sheffield S9 2TJ
Tel: 0114 261 1499
Website: www.skillsforjustice.com

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