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By Imran Awan

Lecturer in Law

University of Wolverhampton

The Career of a Legal Executive - So you want to become a Legal Executive

After sipping a hot cappuccino on a winter’s afternoon I cannot help but hear a conversation by a group of people sat behind me. The topic of conversation is ‘what an earth is this ILEX thing about’ a deafening silence is followed. Being a legal executive means you are entering a profession where your working in a fast paced environment, each day is different with demanding challenges. The world of a legal executive offers a range of great incentives although you will have a demanding workload it will be enjoyable and a fruitful experience.

The emergence of the legal executive began in the early nineteenth century when solicitors in law firms relied heavily on clerks because of an increasing workload for drafting and organising files. However after a shortage in the 1950’s of solicitors the Law Society adopted a new strategy of marketing the field of law. In 1963 the birth of ILEX was created although the title changed to the legal executive. ILEX intended to stimulate recruitment and progression.

One of the most difficult challenges faced by people leaving university is to enter the legal profession and becoming a legal executive offers a range possibilities. People who have left school decided to work in law firms are given the opportunity of training and qualifying as a legal executive. If you are a good organiser, are a good communicator, and have the ability to work under pressure being a legal executive will be the career for you.

Legal executives are qualified lawyers specialising in a particular area of law. To become a legal executive you need to pass the exams leading to the ILEX Professional Qualification in Law, and gain five years experience of working under the supervision of a solicitor in legal practice or the legal department of a private company or local/national government. At that stage you can apply to become a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives (FILEX).

In addition once fully qualified a legal executive can exercise a wider degree of control and responsibility they can have a right of audience in chambers before a judge, represent an appellant before a Legal Aid Area Review Committee, interview and obtain reports from expert witnesses. They can also prepare pleadings, summons and collate relevant evidence and information in proceedings before trial.

They can give advice on issues to do with sale or purchase of land, prepare wills, appear in court in small claim cases, and have special rights to appear in magistrates and county courts on behalf of his employer.

One of the key questions people always ask is how much can a legal executive earn. Trainee Legal Executive can earn anything up to £12,000 to £30,000 depending on experience, qualifications and location. Legal executives working in London can earn up to £40,000. The great thing about the ILEX course is it can be studied at your own pace either full time part time or via distance learning. Which means you are studying when you choose, what you choose (although core modules must be completed) and how you choose which makes the experience enjoyable.

The Professional Qualification in Law is divided into Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law (PDL) and Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law (PHDL), previously referred to as Part I ILEX and Part II ILEX respectively.

Level 3 PDL provides a broad introduction to law and legal practice. ITC offers the Level 3 PDL courses Law 1, Practice 1, Law 2, and Practice 2 by distance learning.

Level 6 PHDL allows for specialist study of three substantive law subjects and one legal practice subject. To complete Level 6 PHDL, you must pass exams in a legal practice paper with its linked law paper, and two other substantive law papers of your choice from the Level 6 PHDL law subjects.

The six practice subjects and their linked law subjects are:

Civil Litigation linked to Contract or Tort (with a recommendation that students do both of these law subjects)
Company and Partnership Practice linked to Company and Partnership Law
Conveyancing linked to Land Law
Criminal Litigation linked to Criminal Law
Family Practice linked to Family Law
Probate Practice linked to Probate and Succession

The full range of Level 6 PHDL law courses offered is diverse and offers a great variety of courses which include:

Law subjects

Commercial Law
Company and Partnership Law
Criminal Law
Employment Law
Equity and Trusts
European Law
Family Law
Immigration Law
Intellectual Property Law
Land Law
Landlord and Tenant Law
Law of Contract
Law of Evidence
Law of Tort
Local Government Law
Planning Law
Probate and Succession
Public Law
Social Welfare Law

To succeed as a legal executive you must be prepared to keep on learning and further enhance the training you have received. If you are ambitious, enthusiastic and willing to learn then becoming a legal executive is an excellent career path to choose.

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