What’s the Difference Between a Chartered Legal Executive and Paralegal?
The differences between the traditional legal jobs of solicitors and barristers are well known among most students. The roles of chartered legal executives and paralegals, however, are more confusing.
Many students think they carry out much of the same tasks. This article will explain that they are in fact quite different, and students must become aware of these differences before choosing which path to take.
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Chartered legal executives are qualified lawyers who are regulated by a professional body. The first stage of academic
training for prospective chartered legal executives is the completion of the CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice. Afterwards, you become an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
The next stage of completing the CILEx Level 6 Professional Diploma in Higher Law and Practice leads to Graduate Membership of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. To become fully qualified you will then have to undergo three years of qualifying employment. This involves carrying out tasks of a legal nature under supervision.
Meanwhile, paralegals are not required to undertake specialist training. However, most people who work in this role have an undergraduate law degree.
Chartered Legal Executives are authorised to undertake reserved legal activities and often work alongside solicitors and barristers. They are trained to the same standard as solicitors and have their own clients.
These professionals will usually study one legal practice subject at an advanced level and specialise in that area. However, within that area of law, fully qualified and experienced chartered legal executives will be able to do many of the tasks that solicitors do and even represent clients in court where appropriate. To do the latter, they have to take a separate qualification to become a chartered legal executive advocate. However, they will not be able to appear in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, paralegals provide office
and case support to solicitors and barristers and take on more of an assisting role. Trainee legal executives often occupy paralegal roles to satisfy the three-year vocational stage of
qualifying as a chartered legal executive.
Many paralegals take on this role temporarily to gain legal experience, often before commencing a training contract. Chartered legal executives tend to stay in their roles more permanently.
Chartered legal executives can become partners of a law firm and those qualified for more than five years are eligible to
become district judges. They can also choose to continue studying to become fully qualified solicitors.
Paralegals, on the other hand, will have to undergo further training and solicitor qualifying work experience in a law firm to be able to undertake the tasks that a solicitor would and to be able to eventually become partners.
Whichever of the two routes you choose to take, you will gain valuable legal experience and be expected to perform tasks that require knowledge of the law and legal procedures in both roles.
Want to learn more on how to become a Chartered Legal Executive or Paralegal? Take a look at our free guides here!