Student Advice - Career Search - Legal Executive - Lawyer
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Legal Executive

Legal Executive

Tell me about it
Legal Executives are qualified lawyers who specialise in a particular area of law. Their every day work is very similar to that of a solicitor. 

The areas of law that Legal Executive lawyers most often specialise in are:

  • Civil litigation (such as Personal Injury; Debt recovery; Housing; Employment)    
  • Criminal litigation (either Defence or Prosecution)
  • Family law                         
  • Conveyancing (helping clients through all the legal stages of buying, selling and leasing property)
  • Public law work (such as working in a Local Authority; in Government; Welfare benefits; or Immigration)
  • Private client (such as Finance; or Probate and wills)
  • Corporate (Company or Commercial law)
  • Legal Practice (Practice management; or Costs and accounts work).

Depending upon which area of law they work in, Legal Executive lawyers may handle the legal aspects of a property transfer, be involved in actions in the High Court or County Courts, draft wills, draw up documents to assist in the formation of a company, or advise husbands and wives with matrimonial problems or clients accused of serious or petty crime.

Entry level
It is possible to begin in this career at 16 through an apprenticeship or by finding a full-time job with training. You can also start by taking a full-time college course to study for the first set of exams, and then continue training in employment or through an apprenticeship. The minimum qualifications are four GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent, including English and at least two other academic subjects. Many people start in this career at 18 or over, and have more than the minimum qualifications.  They often have a degree.

You can make valuable contacts by undertaking work experience in a solicitor's office or in a local court.  This should show that you have a genuine interest in and knowledge of this sort of legal career.

In Scotland, there are no legal executives, although staff known as paralegals or solicitors' assistants support work in solicitors' offices. Contact the Scottish Paralegal Association for further information.

Making the grade
To qualify as a legal executive lawyer, you must register with the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) as a student member and complete two stages of training:

  • Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice – an introduction to the main areas of law and legal practice (after five units you will have achieved the Level 3 Certificate in Law, with the full Level 3 Professional Diploma after 10 units)
  • Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice – specialist higher-level study of law, equivalent to degree level.

You can study by day-release, evening classes or distance learning.

On average it takes four years of part-time study to pass both levels of examination, giving you Membership of ILEX. However, if you have a recognised law degree or postgraduate law qualification, you could qualify in around nine months through the ILEX Graduate 'Fast-track' Diploma.

Personal qualities
As a legal executive, you should be able to communicate effectively at all levels, giving advice clearly and objectively, using documents in complicated legal language, and able to write clear, concise English.

You would possibly be dealing with several different cases at the same time, and would need to have good organisational and administrative abilities. You must be able to concentrate and work accurately with attention to detail. Much of the information you handle would be highly confidential so tact and discretion would be essential.

Looking ahead

To become a Legal Executive lawyer (Fellow of the Institute) you will need five years of 'qualifying employment'. This is defined as work of a legal nature supervised by a qualified Solicitor, Legal Executive, Barrister or Licensed Conveyancer.

At least two of the five years must be consecutive qualifying employment after achieving Graduate Member status (up to three years qualifying employment can be accumulated whilst studying for the ILEX level 6 qualifications).

Once qualified, you could work in the legal profession, in corporate in-house legal departments, or in local or national government. As a qualified Legal Executive Lawyer you can go on to become a partner in a law firm; train to be an Advocate; or decide to become a judge. You can also use the route to become a solicitor if you wish.

Alternative suggestions
You might also consider barrister/advocate, barrister’s clerk, civil servant, licensed conveyancer or solicitor.

Take-home pay
There is no recommended minimum salary for trainee legal executives but starting salaries typically range from around £18,000 to £28,000. Your salary is likely to rise with experience and increasing responsibility to £35,000 to £55,000, and even more for a senior Fellow of ILEX. Salaries vary greatly depending on employer, location and type of work, with those in the city, particularly in commercial litigation, normally very high.

The average cost of the four years of part-time study to become a legal executive lawyer straight after school is around £6,200. However, many firms will help fund your ILEX membership or study fees.


You would normally work 37 hours over a five-day week, but you might need to work late or take work home during busy periods. In addition, you would need to be prepared to use your free time in the early years to study for your examinations.

Sources of information
Institute of Legal Executives:
All About Law:

Scottish Paralegal Association:




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