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Alternative careers in and around the law

Law-related career options

Outdoor clerk

Outdoor clerks used to be employed by a solicitors' firm to assist with court-related matters. However, due to cuts in legal aid the role has slowly disappeared. Typical tasks may have included:

  • taking witness statements;
  • attending hearings;
  • taking notes in court;
  • filing documents at court;
  • making prison visits;
  • conducting legal research; and
  • general administration. 

Costs lawyer

A costs lawyer is a specialist lawyer who deals with all aspects of legal costs. They’re often employed where there’s a need to recover costs between the parties in litigation, either by justifying the costs or seeking to reduce the costs claimed against a party.

In addition, courts must now exercise their powers to manage both the case and the costs of the litigation prospectively, and the preparation of costs budgets in litigation is recommended as being undertaken by costs lawyers. Costs lawyers are also instructed to assist in ensuring that clients are properly charged for their solicitor’s work and to prepare claims for costs where a party is receiving legal aid.

Law costs draftsmen do similar work to costs lawyers, and can be a good way to get into a costs lawyer role. Qualified costs lawyers are regulated by the Costs Lawyers Standards Board (CLSB), and thus authorised to undertake reserved legal activities (ie, conduct litigation, appear in court and swear oaths).

As a qualified costs lawyer, you have the right to conduct proceedings and advocate at all levels on costs issues, including at county courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

To qualify as a costs lawyer, the CLSB says that you must have:

  • completed and passed the Costs Lawyer Qualification; and
  • completed or be undertaking two years of qualifying experience (ie, work carried out in costs law and practice, while being supervised).

The qualifying experience can be undertaken during our after studying for the Costs Lawyer qualification, “subject to certain conditions”.

Find out more about becoming a costs lawyer via the CLSB website and the Association of Costs Lawyers website. 

CILEX legal executive

The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) was established in 1963 with the aim of recognising the skills offered by lawyers’ clerks in England and Wales. CILEX now represents around 21,000 individuals who are employed in various legal institutions in the UK, including private practice law firms, local government and commerce and industry.

CILEX legal executives are qualified lawyers who have at least three years’ experience of working under the supervision of a solicitor, have passed the CILEX exams and met the work-based learning outcomes.

A fully qualified and experienced chartered legal executive can undertake many of the legal activities that solicitors do. For example, chartered legal executives will have their own clients and can undertake representation in court where appropriate.

Some common areas of specialism are:

  • conveyancing – the legal side of buying and selling property;
  • family – advising on divorce and matters affecting children;
  • crime – defending and prosecuting people accused of crimes;
  • company and business law – advising on legislation that affects clients’ businesses such as tax, contract and employment law;
  • litigation – advising clients who are in dispute with someone else;
  • probate – dealing with wills, trusts and inheritance tax; and
  • personal injury – handling accident claims.

Chartered legal executives are recognised by the Ministry of Justice as qualified lawyers and are eligible for judicial appointments and partnerships in law firms and can also be advocates. 

CILEX is particularly attractive to those seeking a law qualification from a variety of groups, including recent school leavers, graduates, legal support staff, mature students and career-changers. For more information on becoming a legal executive and the CPQ, see LCN’s CILEX page and the CILEX website.

However, for those who haven’t started studying yet, the new CILEX Profession Qualification (CPQ) will be the route to follow (find out more in the CILEX Lawyer section below). 

CILEX Lawyer

In 2021, CILEX launched the CPQ, a new approach to on-the-job training that marries legal knowledge with the practical skills, behaviours and commercial awareness required to be a successful lawyer. The CPQ is a three-stage “progressive qualification framework”, which has three different entry points dependent on your current status (eg, whether you have a law or non-law degree, or are a school leaver).

The first stage is the CPQ Foundation, which takes around one to two years to complete. This stage is suitable for school leavers, non-law graduates or career changers. Once candidates have successfully completed this stage, they will have a CILEX Diploma in Law and will be a CILEX Paralegal.

Following this, CILEX Paralegals can then progress onto the CPQ Advanced stage, which also takes around one to two years to complete. CPQ Advanced is suitable for law graduates and CILEX Paralegals, and results in qualification as a Trainee CILEX Lawyer (CILEX Advanced Paralegal) and a CILEX Advanced Diploma in Law and Practice qualification.

The third and final stage is the CPQ Professional stage, which takes between 12 to 18 months to complete and is suitable for Trainee CILEX Lawyers (CILEX Advanced Paralegals), graduates from the Legal Practice Course, Bar course or equivalent. After successful completion of this stage, you’ll be a CILEX Lawyer. 

Court clerk

HM Courts & Tribunals Service employs many qualified solicitors and barristers as court clerks (or justices' clerks). Clerks advise lay magistrates on law and procedure, and are key figures in the daily running of the courts and in the administration of justice. They also play a vital role in the management and administration of the service, organising the arrangement of court time, payment of fines and other related matters.

Clerks who are interested in administration can work towards becoming a justices' chief executive, with responsibilities for increasingly large groupings of magistrates' courts.

Further information can be found on the HM Courts & Tribunals Service website.

Court reporter

Court reporters record verbatim court hearings for official transcripts of court proceedings. Increasingly, reporters use a computer-aided transcription system rather than traditional shorthand. Court reporters don’t need to be legally qualified to enter the profession, although it is an advantage.

Details of training and careers are available through the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters.

Barristers' clerk

Broadly speaking, a barristers' clerk is responsible for running the day-to-day business of chambers and organising barristers' caseloads. At the junior end of the job, a clerk will prepare papers, carry documents to and from court, and perform other administrative tasks. As the clerk becomes more senior, they’ll manage diaries, liaise between solicitors, clients and barristers, and bring new business into the chambers.

For more on being a clerk, see the Institute of Barristers' Clerks.

Chartered secretary

Chartered secretaries, or sometimes referred to as chartered governance professionals (among other terms), work as company secretaries and in other senior positions in companies, charities, local government, educational institutions and trade bodies.

They’re qualified in company law, accounting, corporate governance, administration, company secretarial practice and management. They’re also trained to deal with regulation, legislation and best practice, and to ensure effective operations.

For more detail about what being a chartered secretary entails, visit the website of the Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland.

Legal secretary

Many different skills are required for a legal secretary role, including secretarial, administrative, legal and IT, together with an excellent standard of spoken and written English. Legal secretaries can work in law firms, as well as other legal environments, such as in chambers, courts, the police or local authorities.

The work of legal secretaries varies greatly, depending on the area of law. They’ll often have important responsibilities, liaising with clients, working on important documents and handling confidential information.

Career prospects are good and, through experience, it’s possible to move up the ranks, being promoted to positions of greater responsibility such as senior secretary or office manager, or going on to become paralegals or legal executives.

For some, who have a law degree and/or the Legal Practice Course/Solicitors Qualifying Exam, the valuable practical experience may also open a door to a training contract to qualify as a solicitor. You could also work towards qualifying as a barrister. For more details on the nature of the job, visit the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs website.