Lawyers for change

CILEX’s annual survey always yields fascinating insights into the working lives and ambitions of our members and this year was no different. What was different however was the depth of questioning and the candour with which our membership body set out some of its concerns about the highs and lows of working and progressing in the legal profession. Over 2,000 members shared their perspectives with us. We thank them for their honesty.

Time for change

CILEX members believe that the legal sector needs to modernise, not just because it is out of step with society but because obstacles to entering the profession serve to restrict access to justice and perpetuate an out-of-date status quo. 

  • 91% believe the law operates as an ‘old boys’ club’ with too many restrictive practices and barriers to entrance and progression. They say it needs to be modernised for the 21st century.
  • 89% believe the requirement to have a ‘general qualification’ limits lawyer choice/availability by barring CILEX lawyers from appearing in courts where their ‘specialist’ knowledge is more than adequate. 
  • 83% believe the legal profession is missing out because top lawyers all come through the traditional routes. 
  • 81% believe that elitism prevents access to justice 
  • 82% believe that justice is losing out because of discrimination against CILEX Lawyers

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Levelling up

CILEX has long championed an alternative legal career pathway – a route into law and to becoming a specialist practising lawyer that does not set prior academic achievements as the threshold of entry. We know that these are exclusive, closely aligned to socio-economic advantage and restrict access to the profession. We also believe that general academic qualifications serve little value in training and developing specialist legal professionals. However, while our views on broadening access are gaining traction, there is still a long way to go, even for members of the most progressive legal body. 

  • 81% say that without CILEX they wouldn’t have a career in the legal profession
  • Only 5% of CILEX members have attended a fee-paying or independent school whereas around 30% of solicitors have attended an independent or fee-paying school 
  • 70% attended a state school 
  • 76% of CILEX members identify as female vs. 53% of solicitors 

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Even within CILEX membership however, inequities persist along racial and gender lines:

  • Our survey reveals a distinct gender pay gap among members: 75% of women earn less than £45, compared to 61% men.*
    *Gender pay gaps also exist in both the solicitor and barrister branches of the legal profession
  • 70% of ethnic minority CILEX members vs. 55% White agree that… “Where I work, I believe that managers tend to promote people who are like themselves.” 
  • 84% of ethnic minorities vs 59% White agree: “Diversity isn’t valued in the legal profession.” 
  • 47% ethnic minorities vs. 31% white experienced discrimination 
  • Just 62% of ethnic minorities agree that their employer gives equal opportunities – for White members it’s 90% 
  • 81% of ethnic minorities vs 69%White say: “CILEX Lawyers always get passed over for promotion compared with lawyers from more traditional routes into law.”

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Perception gap

CILEX members report a frustrating lack of awareness among other legal professionals about their capabilities and qualifications. This often manifests itself either as bias or as a lack of respect – to the extent that some CILEX professionals feel they are overlooked for career advancement. 

  • 81% say that the legal profession looks down on CILEX Lawyers. 
  • 88% say that the legal profession is ignorant about what a CILEX Lawyer does. 
  • 70% believe that, in comparison to other lawyers, CILEX Lawyers are paid less for doing the same work 
  • While 85% of members believe that everyone within the profession, including CILEX Lawyers, could become a judge, just 54% believe that everyone where they work, including CILEX Lawyers, could reach the level of partner.


‘I am increasingly aware that a huge sector of the legal profession does not understand or value CILEX lawyers.’

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Lack of support and role models

Our members feel that there is more that employers could do to support them in advancing their careers.

  • 56% of women and 58% of men agree that they ‘don’t have senior role models that are like me to learn from.’
  • 79% of women and 83% of men do not have a sponsor 
  • 79% disagree with statement ‘In the last 2 years, I have received leadership development training to help me prepare for a leadership role.’ 
  • 72% of men and women disagree with the statement ‘My employer has a clear succession plan and I’ve been told where I am on it and when I’ll be ready to take on my next role.’ 
  • Just 12% of women and 23% of men say they have strong strategic networks.

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Proud, confident and positive

Despite the obstacles that remain, CILEX members are proud of their achievements, confident in their abilities and optimistic about the way the profession can evolve to better serve society. They recognise that CILEX has provided a way of building a career in law that wouldn’t be available via other routes and also that CILEX represents a solution to many of the challenges facing the legal sector in terms of access to justice and levelling up. 

  • 91% say they are proud to be part of CILEX 
  • 99% say they want employers to know that CILEX lawyers can be as good as any other lawyer.
  • 99% CILEX lawyers should be allowed to act in all aspects of law as long as they have completed the training giving them the knowledge and competence to do so.
  • 93% say they are confident that they have the right qualifications and experience to fulfil their current roles 
  • 82% say ‘I am an ambitious person and I want to go far in my career’. 
  • 99% agree that Crown Prosecutor positions should be open to all lawyers who obtain the knowledge and competence to do so, regardless of their route of qualification. 
  • 90% say ‘CILEX is a breath of fresh air that the legal profession needs.

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Next steps:

Our survey offered members the opportunity to communicate their top priorities for the future. The top priorities are:

1. Establishing/creating a clear progression/career path for CILEX lawyers. 

2. Helping CILEX lawyers to become Partners/Judges/Heads of Legal Services. 

3. To increase the breadth of law in which CILEX lawyers are allowed to practise. 

4. Enable our members to be allowed to hold more senior judicial office. 

5. Create a career pathway for CILEX members to develop skills in mediation – including a career path to the top of mediation.

6. Enabling CILEX lawyers to join mortgage lender panels.

I love being a part of CILEX and am proud of using this route into law.” 

“I attended a state school, and I am proud of myself for what I have so-far achieved with CILEX.”



Our survey sample:
2041 member responses 

Gender: 
  • 78% female
  • 20% male 

Ethnicity: 
  • 80% White/White British 
  • 17% Ethnic minority 

Age: 
  • 17% <30 
  • 51% 31-50 
  • 31% >51 

Education: 
  • 25% up to Secondary school 
  • 32% post-secondary technical/vocational/diploma/professional qualification 
  • 41% Bachelor’s degree or higher 

Role:
  • 45% Lawyer 
  • 14% Paralegal 
  • 10% Senior paralegal 
  • 5% Partner 
  • 3% Legal secretary 
  • 2% Legal apprentice