When I started working in family law, now over 15 years ago, the title Chartered Legal Executive was uncommon and commonly (and incorrectly) viewed as meaning less qualified than a Solicitor. However, more and more we are seeing Chartered Legal Executives not only in family law but across the board in all legal fields so; what is a Chartered Legal Executive and what does it mean?
A Chartered Legal Executive is a qualified lawyer who specialises in a particular area of law. It is a qualification obtained via vocational training, which means that, upon qualifying, a Chartered Legal Executive will likely have years of experience in their given field already and be able to hit the ground running with case work.
What I do
In my role, I undertake all of the work that a Solicitor would. I have full conduct of my cases, provide legal advice, attend court, am responsible for supervising other members of staff within the department (solicitors/cilex/paralegals) and have become my firm’s first CILEX Partner. Chartered Legal Executives are able to obtain additional practice rights should they choose to do so in their specialist area, which gives them additional skills, such as higher rights of audience as one example. A Chartered Legal Executive is able to be a Judge, a Partner, set up their own firm and, really, has the same opportunities and skillset as a solicitor.
What I don’t do
There is very little that I don’t do as a Chartered Legal Executive. There has been a massive shift over the last ten years for there to be parity between the recognised and regulated legal professions and a Chartered Legal Executive now has the same opportunities as any other legal routes to qualify as a lawyer. If anything, when I’m employing new people to join my team, I am always encouraged when they mention CILEX as an option for them because I know, as an employer, I will end up with a vocationally trained lawyer with a real specialism and interest in the area that they practice that has developed over a number of years.
What qualifications, memberships and experience to look for
A Chartered Legal Executive will be a specialist in their practice area, having committed to it during their vocational training and have years of “pre-qualification” experience. Therefore, a key thing to look for when identifying a lawyer for your case when they are a Chartered Legal Executive is not necessarily when they qualified but how long they have worked in that area for. To qualify, the Chartered Legal Executive will have needed to undertake legal work already and therefore, it could be that they only formally qualified a short time ago but that they have been working in the area for many years.
It is always worth considering what other memberships a lawyer has. In Family Law, a key membership that I would recommend is that the lawyer is a member of Resolution. Resolution members sign up to the Resolution Code of Conduct and are committed to approach cases in a non-confrontational and constructive way to achieve the best for the families that they work with.
I am also a member of the Association of Lawyers for Children, which supports my development with regular training so you should keep an eye out for any other memberships held as this can be a good indicator of that lawyer’s areas of interests, specialism and their commitment to ongoing professional development.
Top tips for getting the most out of my profession
As the Chartered Legal Executive qualification is vocational, lawyers will have started at a paralegal/support level and worked their way up. They will therefore likely be really up to speed on administrative and IT and this can really benefit and speed up cases. The key to working with a Chartered Legal Executive and getting the most out of your lawyer is regular and clear communication and usually this happens by email or phone. If you have an expectation, set it out and be clear from the outset about what you expect your lawyer to do for you. This applies to everyone really, not just Chartered Legal Executives. It is then the lawyer’s job to properly assess and manage your expectations so that you are properly advised and understand what is a realistic expectation and how your preferred outcome can be achieved. Another tip is to look into testimonials and reviews of any Chartered Legal Executive you are thinking about working with and also perhaps have an initial conversation with them to see whether you think you will work together well. As with all professions, different people are suited to different types of lawyers and there can be a benefit to considering your options before you settle on instructing someone. You might end up having to have your lawyer in your life for a number of years and it is important you work with someone you trust.
Postscript. Additional reading material is contained in a number of books explaining the law to people going through a divorce or separation. There is a range in our specialist shop. We have links to a number of organisations and charities who offer additional advice and support on these pages. If you are considering looking for alternatives to going to family court, these pages have some quality material to read through.