Who are Chartered Legal Executive Lawyers?
In 2009, CILEx released the findings of a membership survey which provided a fascinating insight into the make-up of the profession. Some 832 members responded to the survey, which found that the parents of 82% of them had not gone to university. A third of respondents had been legal secretaries before studying to become a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer, with others holding jobs such as paralegal and more general secretarial roles. Nearly 12% were school leavers.
This is all particularly significant as there are currently various initiatives afoot to improve social mobility within the professions generally, including law, to move away from the 'pale, stale and male' stereotype. CILEx remains the only way to become a lawyer without a degree.
Encouragement from their employer/colleagues was a factor in deciding to undertake the CILEx studies for nearly half of respondents, while financial support from their employer also figured strongly (44%). Other factors included being unable to afford to study full-time at university (36%) and seeing ILEX as the quickest route to qualifying as a lawyer (26%).
Nearly three-quarters of respondents were employed full-time, with another 13% part-time and 3.6% self-employed. A third worked in solicitors' firms of one to five partners, 17% in firms of six to 12 partners, and 15% in larger practices. Non-legal organisations (8.2%), local authorities (8%), limited liability partnerships (4.4%), commercial companies (4.1%) and government departments (2.7%) also featured.
Of those working in the legal sector, most (57%) were fee-earners, and the rest in the main legal secretaries, managing other legal work or handling non-legal work. Some 35% reported having management/supervisory responsibilities. Conveyancing was the most common practice area (31%), followed by personal injury (18%), probate/wills (16%), family (16%) general litigation (12%) and debt recovery (11%), with commercial, employment, housing and criminal defence rounding out that top ten.
The diversity of Chartered Legal Executive lawyers is also notable, with the make-up of the legal profession and the judiciary in particular an issue that has been much in the spotlight in recent years. Some 13.7% of respondents were from a non-white background and three-quarters of CILEx members are women – both far higher than the equivalent figures for solicitors and barristers.
Attitudes are undoubtedly changing in the legal sector as Chartered Legal Executive lawyers and CILEx become ever more prominent, with nearly two-thirds now believing that Chartered Legal Executive lawyers are recognised as fully fledged lawyers by colleagues and clients.