Solicitors are legal professionals who advise and support their clients on a range of contentious and non-contentious cases. They are knowledgeable about a range of different areas of law, such as finance, tax and property. Chartered legal executives, on the other hand, carry out many of the same tasks and responsibilities as solicitors (although they often do so under the supervision of a principal). They are highly specialised in a particular area of law such as criminal, family conveyance and personal injury and also have the right to represent their clients in court.
Solicitors and chartered legal executives must follow distinct routes in order to qualify. While the former complete an LLB (or a non-law degree followed by a law conversion course) and an LPC (or passes the SQE post-2021), the latter qualify after completing two CILEx courses. There are various things to bear in mind for each route. Read on to find out what they are!
With university fees and associated costs on the rise, the chartered legal executive route offers a cheaper alternative, making a career in law more viable to students from a variety of backgrounds. Chartered legal executives can avoid tuition fees for an LLB/undergraduate degree and GDL and other postgraduate study. Instead, the academic portion of their training is funded by their employers and they also have the opportunity to earn while they study.
In terms of time frames, the pathway to qualify as a chartered legal executive lasts five years. This can be even shorter depending on whether you have already completed an LLB. To become a solicitor, it takes six years to qualify, provided you study a three-year LLB. If you enrol on a longer LLB course or study a non-law degree, qualifying as a solicitor can take even longer (which also increases your education costs).
Solicitors spend several years exploring different sectors of law (both during their academic studies and later when undertaking different seats during their training contracts). However, chartered legal executives are required to specialise very early on in their careers which prevents them from experimenting with different areas that may interest them. This also makes it difficult for them to switch sectors later on because they generally don’t have a wider, holistic understanding of the law.
The path to becoming a chartered legal executive allows aspiring lawyers to enjoy a more practical experience. It combines academic studies with vocational, on-the-job training, which would be well suited to people who enjoy practically applying what they learn in real-life contexts.
While salaries vary across firms, generally, solicitors may earn more than chartered legal executives. However, the fact that the chartered legal executive route is so much cheaper is a huge draw to those who want to avoid student debt.
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