Legal Executive

Legal Executive

Infobox Occupation

caption= 19th century painting of lawyers, by French artist Honoré Daumier
type= Profession
activity_sector= Law
competencies= Interpersonal skills, analytical mind, critical thinking, commercial sense
formation= Institute of Legal Executives, Legal Practice Course
employment_field= Law firm, government, in-house
related_occupation= Solicitor, trainee solicitor, paralegal

Legal executives are trained legal professionals in England, Wales, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia who often specialise in a particular area of law. There is, however, no direct equivalent to a Legal Executive in Scotland or Canada.

Legal executives work under the supervision of a solicitor and are fee earners, although they cannot practice on their own account. Their work requires them to have the same high ethical standards as barristers and solicitors.

Legal Executives attend to a wide range of legal work, generally specialising in one or more of the following:

* residential and/or commercial conveyancing
* wills and trusts
* litigation

Legal executives undertake a series of training courses and are required to pass qualifications in Law in the area of legal practice that they intend to specialise. Trainees will often work at the same time as studying in order to acquire practical skills. The courses can be undertaken at a college or through an open learning program.

England & Wales


The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) was established in 1963 with the support of the Law Society of England and Wales. ILEX is a professional body which represents legal executives and trainee legal executives. Legal executives in England and Wales are akin to fully qualified lawyers and have similar workloads to solicitors. They can also take an extra ILEX qualification to qualify as advocates, similar to barristers. They work completely autonomously without requiring supervision.

Fellows of ILEX

Only Fellows of ILEX (F.Inst.L.Ex) can lawfully describe themselves as a "Legal Executive" and Fellows are also qualified by the Crown (by way of ILEX) to be "Commissioners of Oaths" [] , able to take depositions and affidavits. Fellows also can bring action in court and appear for clients in some, but not all courts. Appearance in higher courts requires a separate ILEX qualification.

Members of ILEX

Members of ILEX (M.Inst.L.Ex) are also "qualified lawyers" but have less rights than Fellows and cannot take oaths or bring action. Membership is also often used as a route to become a solicitor through additional qualifications but without the need for an LLB. []


The Irish Institute of Legal Executives IILEX is the professional body representing Legal Executives in Ireland and with the stated aim to provide a system of training and examination and to obtain a recognised professional qualification for those engaged in legal work in Ireland.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Institute of Legal Executives [] is an incorporated society which advances protects the status and interests of Legal Executives. At present it has approximately 650 Members.

Membership Levels

There are generally three stages to qualification: Student, Member and Fellow. Membership is attained when all theory and practice courses and examinations have been undertaken.

In September 2008 the training to become a Legal Executive in England and Wales will change. The ILEX qualification, which has been based solely on academic examinations, will now emphasise and examine the practical work of the law as well as continuing with the necessary academic examinations. For example, for those who wish to begin the Level 3 certificate will undertake 5 modules and 2 of these will focus on the practicalities of working within a legal environment.

Members must then work under the supervision of a solicitor at a firm, in-house at a private company or in government (provided always that their work is substantially of a legal nature rather than administrative). After two years at Membership level, they may apply to become a Fellow of the Institute. They must have, at this point, a minimum of five years practical legal experience.

Fellows are issued with an annual practising certificate.

A Fellow of the Institute who wishes to go on to qualify as a solicitor is exempt from the requirement of a training contract. For this exemption to apply, they must have attained Fellowship level by the time of completion of their Legal Practice Course. They must also have completed the academic stage of training; having come through the ILEX route to qualification, this usually means taking a few extra modules of the ILEX level 6 higher diploma in law.

Fellows are required to maintain and improve their knowledge by undertaking at least 16 hours of training each year (CPD - Continuing Professional Development). A proportion of those hours must relate to their area of specialism. []

History in England & Wales

The modern profession of Legal Executive evolved out of the managing clerk of the 19th century. When solicitors' firms started to grow in the 19th century, they increasingly relied upon an ever-expanding number of clerks to help with drafting and organizing documents. Some of these clerks in turn became quite knowledgeable about the law and were allowed to manage their fellow clerks; hence, they were called "managing clerks."

In the 1950s and 1960s, England was hit with a severe shortage of solicitors when population growth unexpectedly raced far ahead of the number of entrants into the profession. To improve the availability of legal services, the Law Society of England and Wales began aggressive recruitment efforts to convince more young people to choose law as a career. As part of this effort, the Law Society decided to turn the managing clerk into a true legal professional area, and sponsored the creation of ILEX at the beginning of 1963 as well as the change in title to "Legal Executive." In the Law Society's own words, ILEX was intended "to stimulate recruitment to the unadmitted ranks of the professional status ... and would offer ... a career with proper incentives." [Brian Abel-Smith and Robert Stevens, "Lawyers and the Courts: A Sociological Study of the English Legal System, 1750-1965" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 397.]


External links

* [ The Institute of Legal Executives]
* [ ILEX Tutorial College]
* [ ILEX Paralegal Programmes - Law for Non-Lawyers]
* [ The Legal Executive Journal - The only publication distributed to all ILEX members]
* [ IILEX - Irish Insitute of Legal Executives]

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