Becoming a lawyer without going to university

becoming a chartered legal executive lawyerBecoming a chartered legal executive lawyer is the only way of becoming a lawyer without a university degree. Mark Morris from legal regulator CILEx, explains what this route involves.

What is a chartered legal executive lawyer?
A chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise in a particular area of law, whereas solicitors have a broader, more general legal training.

Earn and learn
Training as a chartered legal executive lawyer combines working in a legal environment whilst studying for recognised professional qualifications.

Training takes place through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) who are one of the three main regulators of the legal profession alongside the Bar Council and the Law Society.

The CILEx route is by far the cheapest way to train to be a lawyer. The qualifications cost from £4,500 to £7,500 in total. This covers all exam and study fees, and is spread over the total study time.

The courses are offered at around 80 centres across England and Wales or by distance learning, so you can study at your own pace. It takes a minimum of five years to qualify as a CILEx lawyer.

Career prospects
These are similar to those of solicitors. As a chartered legal executive lawyer you can be a partner in a law firm, represent clients in open court or even be a judge.

Through further training you can become a chartered legal executive advocate. This allows you to undertake a wider range of court work such as civil, criminal and family proceedings before the Magistrates and Crown Courts.

Expect to earn £45,000 on average (it can be over £100,000).

How to become a chartered legal executive lawyer
Look for openings in legal firms, especially legal executive trainees or legal apprenticeships. You could also ask if there are any work experience opportunities available.

You can search for opportunities on the CILEx website.

Entry and training
There are different entry points and training depending on your qualifications.

To start training you need a recommended minimum of 4 GCSEs grade C and above. Although it is possible to enter with GCSEs, it is more common for people to start after A-levels. Non law graduates also join at this entry point.

Training comprises three stages:
Stage 1 – CILEx Level 3 Certificate in Law and Practice (equivalent to A-level).
Stage 2 – CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice (set and assessed at honours degree level).
Stage 3 – Two years post Level 6 qualifying employment.

If you have a current qualifying law degree as recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) you are exempt from many of the CILEx qualifications required and you can study the Graduate ‘Fast-Track’ Diploma programme. The Graduate ‘Fast-Track’ Diploma can be studied part time, allowing you to find employment in legal practice whilst studying.

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