Which course to choose?
One of the great attractions of working in the legal world is that it is so varied. You may already be working in a legal environment and seeking to improve your knowledge and skills. Or, you may be looking for your first job in law. Knowing which qualification you need, and where to start, is not always obvious. We have described some typical roles below to help you to understand the options.
Role – legal secretary
Legal secretaries play a vital support role to qualified legal staff in many organisations. Typically their duties range from word processing and filing at a junior level, to more complex administrative support at a senior level. Some may combine their secretarial duties with elements of legal work and so there is a crossover between a legal secretary and a paralegal.
Read more about becoming a legal secretary.
Role – legal apprentice
The term legal apprentice is used to refer to young people recruited by employers to join one of the new legal apprenticeship schemes for which government funding for training has become available. There are two levels of apprenticeship: an intermediate level which provides training in legal or business administration, and an advanced level which provides training for a paralegal role. Young people aged 23 and below already employed in a law office may also be eligible.
Read more about the new legal apprenticeship schemes.
Role – paralegal
Someone who has completed some legal training, but is not qualified as a solicitor or Chartered Legal Executive, is usually referred to as a paralegal. The term applies to any member of staff progressing files under supervision – from legal secretaries who have gained the necessary knowledge to carry out specific practical tasks, to law graduates who progress a heavy caseload of files from start to finish. If you want to gain sufficient knowledge to be useful to a potential employer, then CILEx Level 3 courses leading to a paralegal qualification could be an excellent starting point.
Read more about becoming a paralegal.
Role – Chartered Legal Executive
The term ‘Chartered Legal Executive’ can only be used by someone who has qualified as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). Being a Chartered Legal Executive is a fulfilling and rewarding career. In a law firm you could be a senior member of staff or department head with a significant client following. Opportunities also exist for senior roles in the legal departments of commercial organisations, charities, government agencies and local authorities. Once qualified, there are great opportunities available – you could become a partner in a law firm, an independent practitioner running your own legal business, an advocate or even a judge.
Read more about becoming a Chartered Legal Executive.
Role – solicitor
A solicitor is a lawyer who has been through a training route specified by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Solicitors have practice rights granted by statute, although some of these are now enjoyed by other professionals. For example, only solicitors were eligible to become partners in law firms or to run their own legal businesses, but these rights have now also been granted to Chartered Legal Executives.
Read more about becoming a solicitor.