Is it possible to become a solicitor without a university degree?
Many people consider a career in the law but are put off by the lengthy academic and vocational training required to become a solicitor or barrister. There is however a way of qualifying as a lawyer without the need for a university degree.
This is done by qualifying as a Legal Executive with the Institute of Legal Executives (“ILEX”). Many people may choose to take this root rather than the traditional roots to qualify as a solicitor as study can be combined with work and no formal qualifications are required before embarking on an ILEX course.
The course also allows you to train ‘on the job’ and receive first hand practical experience of the law you are studying. It is not however, the easy option, the ILEX route can take a number of years before qualification.
ILEX studies can also be carried out by distance learning which may be of use to some students.
If you become a ‘Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives’ before you decide to complete the Legal Practice Course (the vocational course that all potential solicitors must complete) you may be exempt from the Solicitors Regulation Authority Training Contract, a two year period of training required to become a solicitor following completion of the Legal Practice Course. The ILEX training route may therefore be used to enter the final stages of the necessary qualifications to become a solicitor.
What can legal executives do?
Qualified and experience Legal Executives are able to carry out much the same work as a solicitor. Generally Legal Executives work in solicitors firms alongside other lawyers but they can also work in in-house legal departments for companies, organisations and government departments.
They can carry out work in a number of areas of the law and its practice, for example, conveyancing, family matters, probate and litigation.
Like other lawyers Legal Executives must continue training through continued professional development.
What qualifications do you need?
ILEX suggest that you should hold at least four good GCSEs including English Language or Literature. No other qualifications are required. Even you do not hold these GCSEs you can still study with ILEX as they will consider any qualifications at an equivalent level. They will also look at each individual’s situation.
Stages of Training
ILEX training is taken in two stages:-
Stage 1: ILEX Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice (equivalent to an ‘A’-level)
Stage 2: ILEX Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice (set at honours degree level).
ILEX also offer a Graduate Fast Track Diploma for those who have already undertaken a qualifying law degree. Exemptions for certain aspects of study can also be available if the student already holds a law ‘A’-level.
It is also possible to be fully exempt if you have already successfully completed the Legal Practice Course or Bar Vocational Course.
Exemptions can also be granted for other relevant qualifications although this is at the discretion of ILEX.
ILEX Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice
Students who wish to become Legal Executives first need to study Level 3. This is a broad introduction of law and practice and the development of legal skills. Certain units must be taken which deal with different aspects of law and legal practice.
The time this level takes generally depends on the student but the average time spent is either one year full time or two years part time.
ILEX Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice
This is the second stage to qualifying as a Legal Executive. There are a wide range of subject matters to study and the student can choose an area of law to specialise in, if they so wish. There are also professional skills units that must be completed.
This stage of training will usually take two years to complete.
A five year qualifying period of employment must be completed to qualify as a Legal Executive. If you decide to work in a legal environment whilst completing your studies will count towards this time.
To become a Fellow of ILEX and have the right to call yourself a Legal Executive at least two years of employment must be undertaken after achieving your ILEX qualification.
Qualified Legal Executives have the ability to offer advice to client and run their own case load. They can also manage other Executives, possible junior solicitors or other administration staff after they have gained enough experience. It is possible to become an associate within a law firm and even a partner.
ILEX fellows also now have the opportunity to apply for a wide range of judicial posts which would previously have been limited to qualified solicitors and barristers.