Higher rights of audience for CILEX members would improve sustainability of legal services

Higher rights of audience for CILEX members would improve sustainability of legal services

4 January 2023

Giving CILEX members the opportunity to gain higher rights of audience would have a positive impact on the sustainability of legal services and open up career opportunities in both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the judiciary, says CILEX (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives).

CILEX said this would have “potentially far-reaching consequences” for the profession.

CILEX practitioners can currently obtain litigation and advocacy rights for the lower courts. CILEx Regulation is consulting on whether to seek the power to grant such practitioners higher rights of audience as well for criminal or civil work (family lawyers who want higher rights will be able to take the civil route).

CILEX has long advocated for the removal of barriers to its Associate Prosecutor members’ ability to progress their careers to become Crown Prosecutors – a move that would significantly widen the pipeline of available prosecuting lawyers at a time when the CPS is experiencing a recruitment crisis.

The change would also allow CILEX members to become Crown Prosecutors, again enhancing their career prospects. CILEX said this was “a significant component of the conversation we have been driving with the Ministry of Justice and the CPS”.

Surveys by both CILEX and CILEx Regulation have shown overwhelming support among members for higher rights. CILEX expects the ability to gain higher rights of audience will drive up the number of members applying to become Associate Prosecutors, Crown Prosecutors and, in time, judges.

Under the proposals, members seeking higher rights of audience would have to complete additional training and assessment and complete at least one renewal period of their existing advocacy rights before applying.

CILEX urged the regulator to consider how it might expedite members who have only criminal advocacy rights and not litigation rights and are therefore not eligible to apply as the rules are currently envisaged. It also highlighted the importance of “greater clarity and detail of the related rules and practical arrangements required to educate and inform” those eligible to apply.

CILEX Chair Professor Chris Bones says: “Plans to give specialist CILEX lawyers the ability to acquire higher rights of audience have the potential to open up new career paths for our members both at the CPS, and in the longer term, the judiciary. The impact of widening the pool of potential judges and prosecutors cannot be underestimated at a time when a lack of specialist lawyers is adding to court backlogs and is putting enormous strain on our already creaking justice system.

“This move would be an important step in recognising the equivalence of CILEX-qualified lawyers to other lawyers and in doing so, shoring up the long-term sustainability of the legal services market.”

If CILEx Regulation moves ahead with its plans, it will then need to seek approval from the Legal Services Board.


For further information, please contact:

Louise Eckersley, Black Letter Communications on 0203 567 1208 or email: [email protected]

Kerry Jack, Black Letter Communications on 07525 756 599 or email: [email protected]

Notes to editors:

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

CILEX pioneered the non-university route into law and recently 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 is a progressive qualification framework that creates a workforce of specialist legal professionals, providing a career ladder from Paralegal through to Advanced Paralegal and ultimately full qualification as a CILEX Lawyer. CILEX Lawyers can become partners in law firms, coroners, judges or advocates in open court.

CILEX members come from more diverse backgrounds than other parts of the legal profession:

  • 77% of its lawyers are women
  • 16% are from ethnic minority backgrounds
    • 8% are Asian or Asian British
    • 5% are Black or Black British
    • 3% are from a mixed ethnic background
  • 85% attended state schools
  • 33% are the first generation in their family to attend university
  • Only 3% of its members have a parent who is a lawyer.

CILEX members are regulated through an independent body, CILEx Regulation. It is the only regulator covering paralegals.

Linda Ford is CEO of CILEX