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The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

updated on 21 July 2022

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 provides three levels of qualification: 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 is no requirement to have a university degree, but it is 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 is a competency-based qualification framework, developed in consultation with employers, that acknowledges the requirements of a rapidly evolving legal and business landscape.

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.  The three stages of CPQ are:

  • CPQ Foundation stage – aligned to the role of a paralegal. Professionals who complete CPQ Foundation stage will become an accredited CILEX Paralegal. That means they will be able to demonstrate the competencies specifically linked to that role, having evidenced them through assessment of their practical experience. This enables them to add value early and with an understanding of the practical issues facing clients and providers of legal services.
  • CPQ Advanced stage – for those handling cases at an advanced paralegal level. CPQ Advanced stage builds on the knowledge acquired in CPQ Foundation stage and includes an additional Ethics and Professional Responsibility module and a further period of professional experience. Professionals at this stage will also have started to specialise in a specific area of law. On completion, they will be accredited as a CILEX Advanced Paralegal. 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 – for those who want to be accredited as a full CILEX Lawyer in their chosen specialist area of law and with full practice rights. A CILEX Lawyer has 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 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.

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 CPQ Foundation stage, it is open to all. 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 a maximum of £12,500 – less for those who already have some kind of legal qualification.

How long will it take to qualify?

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

It is expected that each stage takes between 18 months and two years, so a student could qualify as a CILEX Lawyer in five to six years.

Studying with CILEX

There’s a range of study options offered by CILEX Approved Training Providers, including further education colleges and specialist distance learning providers,  with many providers offering blended learning and 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 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 start from £20,000 per year while qualifying. Many trainee CILEX members report that they are 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.

All CILEX members are independently regulated by CILEX Regulation and must adhere to a code of conduct. They are 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 is not just legal firms that employ them. Such lawyers fill key legal roles in a wide 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. Additionally, there is a growing number of CILEX Lawyers who are partners in legal practices.

Why choose CPQ?

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

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 are looking for an affordable and flexible route to a successful career in law, choose CPQ.

For all the latest information, visit the CILEX website.