Career as a legal executive

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Lisa Roberts is a trainee legal executive with a County Council. All local authorities have legal departments to advise council members and officers on many aspects of the law, from employment law and land purchase to prosecuting offenders.

Describe what you do as a legal executive?

As a trainee, I currently spend three months in each department of the council's legal practice, gaining experience in different aspects of the law. Senior members of the legal team supervise all my work.

What are you working on at present?

I am involved with a number of highway claims from the public, where they have either injured themselves or their property is damaged on highway land maintained by the county council.

I contact the council's highways department and ask them to investigate the complaint. The highways department produces a report. I am learning to evaluate the evidence by applying legal principles to determine liability, deciding whether or not compensation is to be paid.

What happens if claimants are unhappy with your decisions?

They could decide to take the council to court. If that happens, I prepare a bundle of documents relevant to the case. This could include witness statements and photographs of the place where the accident happened. I instruct the barristers who work on our behalf and attend court when the case is heard. Senior colleagues help me all the way and make sure I have put the case together correctly.

What else are you involved with?

I have done some work on small contracts. A typical contract could be the renewal of the council's agreement with a care home. The social services department sends me the contract and I make sure that it contains all the relevant standard legal clauses, and that all the parties involved in the contract are mentioned. I am also involved in debt recovery.

What qualities do you need in your job as a legal executive?

You need to develop new skills quickly as the work is challenging. Research skills are important and I spend a lot of time working in our law library. You must also be adaptable – if a colleague is ill, you may have to appear in court on their behalf at very short notice.

Do you do any formal training?

I go to college one evening a week. I am studying for the Institute of Legal Executives' (ILEX) qualification. It is hard work and I stay at work for an extra hour each evening to study. I also study at weekends.

However, many of the topics covered on my course are things that I am involved with at work. Having this much practical experience makes the course a lot easier. The council also runs in-house training courses that are very useful.

What ambitions do you have for the future?

I want to become a solicitor, and, eventually, a barrister. At the end of this year, if I pass my exams, I will become a Member of ILEX. With two years' more study and another year's work experience I can become a Fellow. After that, I can take my solicitor's exams part-time over two years.

Lisa's route to her career as a legal executive

  • International Baccalaureate.
  • Travelled and worked in various temporary jobs.
  • Administrative work.
  • Present position.
  • Currently studying for ILEX Level 3

Lisa's legal executive tips

  • To succeed in this job, you must be prepared to keep on learning. Even after qualifying you have to do further training each year to allow you to continue practising.

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Salary of a legal executiven

  • Salaries for legal executives in local government start at around £11,000.
  • Fully qualified legal executives can earn up to £20,000 while experienced ILEX Fellows can expect £25,000.

How to become a legal executive

  • Minimum entry requirements are four GCSE/S grades (A-C/1-3) in academic subjects including English.
  • You can begin this career at 16 through a Modern Apprenticeship or by obtaining full-time employment. You can also take a full-time college course to study for the first set of exams and then continue training in employment or through a Modern Apprenticeship. Many people who enter this career are 18 or older, and have more than the minimum qualifications. Some have degrees.
  • To become fully qualified you must be at least 25, have passed the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) Professional Qualification in Law and have worked for five years in qualifying employment. Two of these years must be worked after passing the final examinations.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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