Roles in the legal sector
There are many roles in the legal sector. You may have heard of solicitors and barristers, but there are many more opportunities. Find out which one may be best suited to you.
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 listed some typical roles below to help you to understand the options.
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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.
The term legal apprentice is used to refer to cover anyone who is following a government-approved apprenticeship scheme.
Apprenticeships for the legal sector are available at all levels, from legal administrator through to solicitor. You can be eligible for an apprenticeship programme even if you are already employed in the sector, if the programme would lead to you acquiring new knowledge and skills.
Someone who has completed some legal training, or who has experience in working in the legal sector 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.
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). CILEx Fellows are qualified lawyers.
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.
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.