9th January 2020
9th January 2020
Like many fellow lawyers I know, when I was at university I was always told that in order to become a solicitor after I had completed my law degree I would have to do the Legal Practice Course, more commonly referred to as the LPC. The LPC, which is the traditional route, takes one year of full time study, or two years on a part time basis. On completion you would need to secure a two year training contract which can appear quite daunting, not to mention competitive.
I completed my law degree at Teesside University in 2016 and started applying for training contracts whilst applying for the LPC. Many firms only take on one to two trainees a year (if any at all) so taking into account the amount of applicants for trainee places the process is very competitive. One night, as I was weighing up the cost of the LPC which was £12,000 at the institution at which I wanted to study (not including the cost of travel/living arrangements), I started searching for “alternative routes to becoming a solicitor” and this is when I came across the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Graduate Fast Track Diploma.
Founded in 1892, CILEx is the professional association for 20,000 Chartered Legal Executive lawyers, paralegals and other legal practitioners in England and Wales. Chartered Legal Executive lawyers have the option to become solicitors in one or two years after achieving fellowship of the institute and usually are exempt from the training contract that graduates must complete to qualify as solicitors.
Upon completion of a qualifying degree, in order to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer it is necessary to study for the graduate fast track diploma (one year) and then complete three years of qualifying employment, two of which must be done consecutive (this can be whilst studying) and one after completing the academic component. Although legal executive lawyers achieve similar practicing rights as solicitors, if you still want to become a solicitor you can do so by completing the LPC (from which you may be exempt from some parts, please refer to the SRA website for further details) and working as a Chartered Legal Executive for one to two years. You would then need to provide evidence of your status as a qualified legal executive to the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), after which point you would be set to be admitted to the roll of solicitors.
The graduate fast track diploma costs approximately £1800-£2200. Compared to a whopping £12,000 for the LPC it really is a no brainer. My advice to anyone looking to go into the legal profession would be to do your research first and look at alternative routes. You may find if you are in employment, many firms will support you in your aspiration and may even be willing to fund the full or a portion of the course for you as it is considerably cheaper than the LPC. You can study CILEx through a college or university, or via distance learning. If you choose this route, it is likely that you may be able to obtain a student loan to cover the fees.
I have just graduated with a LL.M (Masters of Law) and I am in the last stages of the graduate fast track diploma which I started in summer 2019. I will qualify as a Legal Executive lawyer in 2020 and I propose to continue my studies thereafter so as to achieve qualification as a solicitor. I have always wanted to be a solicitor so I will convert this over but it is not necessary to do this as previously mentioned legal executive lawyers achieve similar practicing rights as solicitors and can even go onto become partners in firms and judges.
Nick Hanning, former CILEx president, Chartered Executive Lawyer, Advocate and Partner at RWPS Law stated "The rights you achieve as a CILEx lawyer are practically indistinguishable now from those of solicitors but it is a far cheaper and more flexible route."
The ways to qualify are due to change again in 2021 when the solicitors qualifying exams are due to come into force to replace the LPC. The LPC will still run until 2031 to give those who wish to qualify via this route the chance to do so whilst they trial the SQE’s.
If you are considering a career in the legal profession and would like to speak to someone about their journey through the CILEx route please do not hesitate to contact me at SaraK@bhplaw.co.uk