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The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

updated on 20 February 2024

CILEX (The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) is one of the three main professional bodies covering the legal profession in England and Wales. The 20,000-strong membership is made up of CILEX lawyers, paralegals and other legal professionals.

CILEX pioneered the non-university route into law and in 2021 launched the CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ), a new approach to on-the-job training that marries legal knowledge with the practical skills, behaviours and commercial awareness needed by lawyers in the 2020s.

The CPQ results in three status levels: CILEX Lawyer, CILEX Advanced Paralegal and CILEX Paralegal. CILEX Lawyers can become partners in law firms, coroners, judges or advocates in open court.

The CPQ is a tailored and flexible qualification pathway; there’s no requirement to have a university degree, but it’s still open to university students; it enables distance learning, but also enables face-to-face learning at various education providers across the UK; and it enables an ‘earn as you learn’ model to increase accessibility and affordability of entry, while still maintaining high professional standards and competencies by creating specialist pathways, specific to the area of law that practitioners operate. It’s a competency-based qualification framework, developed in consultation with employers, that acknowledges the requirements of a rapidly evolving legal and business landscape.

The CPQ is a progressive framework across three stages founded on the CILEX Competency Framework. Each stage combines a focus on technical expertise and practical skills with the development of the core behaviours required to create forward-thinking, commercially minded, adaptable lawyers who really understand the clients they serve. There are three stages to the CPQ. At Foundation and Advanced level, students can complete the qualification without being required to work in a legal role, however they’ll need to complete professional experience to achieve the membership status of Paralegal and Advanced Paralegal.

  • CPQ Foundation Stage: This is aligned to the role of a paralegal or case handler. Professionals who complete the CPQ Foundation Stage with professional experience will become an accredited CILEX Paralegal. That means they can demonstrate the competencies specifically linked to that role, having evidenced them through assessment of their practical experience. It enables them to add value early and with an understanding of the practical issues facing clients and providers of legal services. This stage has six modules, including professional skills, contract law and introduction to property and private client.
  • CPQ Advanced Stage: This stage is for those handling cases at an advanced paralegal level. The CPQ Advanced Stage builds on the knowledge acquired in the CPQ Foundation stage and includes a part two Ethics and Professional Responsibility module and a further period of professional experience to achieve Advanced Paralegal status. On top of the five mandatory modules, professionals at this stage are also required to choose one optional module from business and employment law, family law and practice, and probate and private client. CILEX Advanced Paralegals meet all the attributes for CILEX Paralegals. In addition, they can demonstrate competence and legal knowledge to a high specialist level, enabling them to work as specialist case handlers in any of the areas of law they study.
  • CPQ Professional Stage: This is for those who want to be accredited as a full CILEX Lawyer in their chosen specialist area of law and with full practice rights. This stage has just one compulsory module (ie, professional skills), with professionals then given the choice of one extra module from a range of options, including criminal litigation, family litigation and immigration law. A CILEX Lawyer will have completed all three stages of the CPQ, which includes compulsory Ethics and Professional Responsibility modules and gained a minimum of three years’ relevant practical experience. The structure of the CPQ means CILEX Lawyers qualify with practice rights in at least one specialist area of law. By contrast, solicitors and barristers qualify as generalists and only begin to specialise post-qualification. For their employers and clients, this means that CILEX Lawyers are ready to deliver specialist expertise and add value from much earlier in their careers.

All CPQ assessments will take place online.

Qualify as a lawyer without needing a degree

The CILEX route is inherently inclusive and diverse. Unlike other routes into a legal career there are no formal entry requirements to start on the CPQ Foundation stage; it’s open to all. The CPQ is a substantially more affordable way for students to become lawyers than other routes into law – delivering on CILEX’s commitment to accessibility while not compromising standards. To qualify as a CILEX lawyer will cost around £13,000 – less for those who already have some kind of legal qualification. This is the cost of training at CILEX Law School; CILEX makes it clear that it doesn’t control the fees that other approved training providers charge.

How long will it take to qualify?

This will vary from trainee to trainee. Those with undergraduate or postgraduate legal qualifications won’t have to start at the beginning and the flexibility of the qualification means it’s possible to pause learning and progress at whatever speed suits an individual. Not everyone will want to study all three stages.

It’s expected that each stage takes between 18 months and two years, with assessments initially offered twice a year, in January and June.

Studying with CILEX

There are a range of study options offered by CILEX Approved Training Providers, including further education colleges and specialist distance learning providers. Many of the providers offer blended learning among other flexible options, including CILEX Law School, which is wholly owned by CILEX. All CILEX Approved Training Providers must meet the approval standards and regulatory requirements to offer the CPQ. Training providers fees vary, depending on the delivery of the course in a classroom or remote setting, on whether the course is delivered full or part time, on the learning platforms used and on the level of support given to students. 


Salaries will vary according to your location and legal specialism. Starting salaries are usually between £15,000 to £28,000 per year while qualifying. Many trainee CILEX members report that they’re on higher salaries than the trainee solicitors they work alongside.

What CILEX Lawyers do

Although CILEX Lawyers can be involved in many areas of law, the most 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.

CILEX Lawyers are specialist practitioners at the point of qualifying. All CILEX members are independently regulated by CILEx Regulation and must adhere to a code of conduct. They’re required to continue training throughout their careers in order to keep abreast of the latest developments in the law.

Where CILEX Lawyers work

CILEX Lawyers are found in many of the top UK law firms, but it’s not just legal firms that employ them. Such lawyers fill key legal roles in a variety of government bodies, local authorities, charities and business organisations, including Caterpillar, HSBC, Admiral Insurance, Disney Corporation, the UK Border Agency, the Ministry of Defence, the Crown Prosecution Service, the NHS, county councils, the RSPCA and The Peabody Trust. They also join in-house legal teams and are represented in some of the top companies in the UK.

The move to allow CILEX Fellows to apply for judicial positions has seen the appointment of the first CILEX judges. In addition, there’s a growing number of CILEX Lawyers who are partners in legal practices.

Why choose the CPQ?

The CPQ offers a framework for a new kind of lawyer that has core legal knowledge and commercial awareness at its heart.

The CPQ sets new standards in practice-focused training and work-readiness, broadens access to legal careers and develops professionals at all levels who are equipped from the outset to add real value to their employers and clients. 

If you’re looking for an affordable and flexible route to a successful career in law, choose the CPQ.

Can I qualify as a solicitor through the CPQ?

CILEX has reported that it’s in discussions with the Solicitors Regulation Authority about exemptions to the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) for those who use the CPQ to qualify as CILEX Lawyers. These people will be exempt from the two-year qualifying work experience requirement under the SQE.

For all the latest information, visit the CILEX website.