Chartered titles – the Professional Board on the benefits for members
The CILEX Professional Board examines proposed changes to CILEX’s membership structure and the benefits the introduction of Chartered Lawyer and Chartered Paralegal titles and a new paralegal career ladder will bring.
CILEX’s recently announced reform agenda includes the creation of a new suite of specialist Chartered Lawyer titles as well as a paralegal standards framework and career ladder that offers the opportunity to become a Chartered Paralegal linked to a professional register.
For many of us, our experience has been that we are not always treated as equals to our solicitor counterparts and we’ve tended to use an array of titles like ‘Lawyer’, ‘Legal Executive’ and ‘Specialist Lawyer’ depending on our firm and practice area. Indeed, the recent CILEX member survey showed that only 23% of Fellows actually use the title Chartered Legal Executive to describe their status and many of us find ourselves using workarounds to explain what it means and our equivalence to solicitors in our specialist area of practice.
CILEX has been doing a great deal to tackle this issue, not least by working to remove the legislative, policy and funding barriers that have been in place for members, opening up more opportunities, including the ability to apply for senior judicial positions and ensuring CILEX Lawyers can certify copies of Powers of Attorney, for example. Recognising, however, that more can be done to make it clearer that CILEX Lawyers, whether working in reserved or unreserved areas, can practise with true equivalence to our solicitor counterparts, and to support improved consumer understanding, the consultation proposes use of the new title of Chartered Lawyer.
There is strong support from members for making specialisms more explicit in our titles – our specialist knowledge is, after all, one of the key strengths of the CILEX route to qualification. As such, the new suite of titles will reflect the specialism our Fellows work in, including those in reserved and unreserved areas, e.g. Chartered Property Lawyer, Chartered Corporate Lawyer and Chartered Litigator and Advocate. The consultation invites members to identify those specialist Chartered titles they would like to use to reflect their scope of practice.
For members, using simple and familiar language that consumers understand will make clearer to their employers, prospective employers and clients, the extensive skills, expertise and specialist knowledge held by CILEX-qualified lawyers.
The other aspect of the proposals follows CILEX’s acquisition of the Institute of Paralegals (IoP) last year. Since then, feedback from both existing CILEX paralegals and IoP members and their employers has made clear the need for a more structured career ladder and a professional framework, one which recognises the standards paralegals are required to meet and ensures the public can differentiate CILEX paralegals from those who are unregulated.
The term ‘paralegal’ has an incredibly broad meaning, applying to a significant number and variety of job roles across the profession. For some, it’s a stepping-stone on the way to becoming a CILEX Lawyer or solicitor, and for others a career choice in its own right. Either way, it’s important that we can have confidence that high standards are demanded of all those working as paralegals.
Whilst the current CILEX Paralegal standard provides a baseline competency, feedback from employers and paralegals has been that it does not offer a progression route or distinguish different levels of experience or responsibility. It does not offer the ability to differentiate those paralegals with extensive experience and who are operating at a more senior level, exercising independent judgement and decision-making, often managing teams, or running businesses, from those who are working under supervision.
The consultation proposes a career ladder of Student Paralegal, Paralegal and Chartered Paralegal, with standards aligned to job roles at each level. This will help providers and users of legal services to differentiate based on level of competence and experience. The Professional Paralegal Register will provide a public-facing searchable database capturing standard attained, practice area and regulated status.
For CILEX’s paralegal members who are not working to become qualified lawyers, this presents the opportunity to hold a title that will be a recognised validation of their years of experience and/or qualifications. It will also offer a clear pathway to career progression for those who want it, both within firms and when moving into roles in other firms or settings.
Badge of quality
CILEX is a uniquely inclusive membership body, encompassing specialist legal professionals across the spectrum and a range of flexible pathways into a legal career, through the CPQ and apprenticeships.
The Professional Board believes these changes have the potential to be very positive for our members, the organisations they work for and for users of legal services. Clear and simple titles that reflect the skills, specialist knowledge and extensive experience of both CILEX Lawyers and paralegals will act as a clear badge of quality to employers and clients.
We want to hear what you think and encourage as many of you as possible to engage with the process so CILEX can better understand the impact on its members.