Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Should I take the ILEX route or the training contract route in order to qualify as a solicitor?

This question was asked yesterday on our careers line. The student wanted to know whether do the LPC (Legal Practice Course) route or go down the ILEX (Institute of Legal Executives) route.

There are disadvantages and advantages to both of these routes into the legal profession.

The main advantage of doing the legal practice course is that if you are lucky enough to get a training contract, you will find that you can train as a solicitor within three years. This means that you only work for peanuts for two years as a trainee solicitor before qualifying and receiving what could be argued as a reasonable salary.

The ILEX route means that you have to work in the region of about five years for a somewhat meagre salary and then do the legal practice course in order to qualify and even then, you may need further experience before the Law Society will allow you to be admitted.

Therefore, if you wish to qualify quickly then the LPC and training contract route is for you.

The main disadvantage of the legal practice course is the cost. Universities and colleges have long seen the advantages of this course in terms of generating income for their institutions, and with the price being between £6000 and £10,000 to study for this course, you will be paying off a loan for quite a number of years after completing the course. This means that you start your training contract in rather a lot of debt, and with the salary on the high street being no more than £16,000 on the whole, as a trainee solicitor, you are unlikely to be paying it off for quite a while.

If you go down the ILEX route of course, you can work whilst you’re studying and the ILEX courses are not as expensive at the legal practice course. Often, as well, firms are quite happy to pay some of the cost of this course as it is more work related than the legal practice course (or is perceived to be) as the legal practice course is often considered in private practice to be somewhat out of touch with realities.

Also, firms find that most trainee solicitors start effectively from scratch when they begin the training contract work, and are incapable of most of the activities of a lawyer. Pretty much all trainee solicitors need their hands held for the first six months, whilst they find their feet in the world of work, whereas legal executives on the whole tend to be people who have been working for some time and understand the concept of work, which of course, a lot of students and graduates find hard to fit into.

The other problem with doing the ILEX course is that it is not recognised as a conventional way into the profession as a solicitor. Questions will be asked for the remainder of your career as to why you went down this route rather than the training contract route and of course, you are unable to give the real answer – i.e. that the cost was prohibitive and you were unable to find a training contract.

So my advice would be to seriously consider the legal practice course from the outset if you are committed to a career as solicitor. If you are concerned that you do not know enough about the job a solicitor does, then go and get some experience, and if you are unsure as to whether you will find a training contract either because you lack the commitment or wish to avoid too much exposure to the costs from the outset, you may wish to consider the ILEX route so you spread the cost over a period of time. There are advantages and disadvantages of both.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment. He regularly advises law students and graduates via this blog and also via website on matters affecting training contract applications, work experience placements and general careers advice. You can email for free careers advice at


Arlene Tresmanio said...

It is possible to satisfy the academic stage of training and qualify as a solicitor without obtaining a degree, through the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX). This route requires students to take ILEX exams while working in qualifying legal employment.

ILEX students need a minimum of four GCSEs grades A-C in academic subjects including English (alternatively, two A-levels and one GCSE, three AS-levels, a BTEC general or first certificate at ‘merit’ grade or the ILEX preliminary certificate in legal studies).

Even without formal qualification, enrolment over the age of 25 can be on the basis of business, commercial, academic or other experience. Each application will be considered on its individual merit.

While A training contract is a period of practical training, tailor made for graduates who wish to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. A full-time training contract is normally for a period of two years, and is undertaken by those who have completed the Legal Practice Course. The training contract is compulsory for anyone qualifying with a law degree and for anyone qualifying with a non-law degree.

A training contract is not normally required for anyone qualifying without a degree; non-graduates typically advance toward qualification by passing exams administered by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) – all the while working under the supervision of a solicitor.

To carry out a training contract, a graduate must apply for an opening for such position at a law firm. The problem encountered is that the number of graduates applying for training contracts eclipses the number of available contracts per annum. Get your Training Contracts for Solicitors

Anonymous said...

As an LLB student graduating facing the credit crunch, where the LPC can now cost up to £12,000 as I have heard, and even fewer places being offered for a training contract,is the ILEX option more legitimate now because of this?

Would prospect employers recognise why a student may choose this avenue instead of the traditional training contract/lpc route in light of the credit crunch?

I recognise the ILEX route is a longer way to qualify, but the time it may take to find a training contract, (even with a 2:1 from
University of London, and law related extra curriculars) may be just as long.

Any comments would be much appreciated!

Jonathan Fagan said...

It is true that the ILEX route can be cheaper, but it is probably just as hard to do - with the LPC you are ready to commence a training contract immediately, and with the ILEX course you need to spend a good number of years training and then do the LPC if you want to qualify as a solicitor.

There are cheap ways of doing the LPC - part time, distance learning, looking for a part time study contract whilst completing it.. I did the latter years ago, and it meant I could pay for the course whilst I worked.

Unknown said...

ILEX/CILEX Fast-Track Graduate Diploma is a faster way to qualifying as a solicitor. It is easier to get a training as a paralegal than a law graduate and that training will all the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to exempt you from the legal training contract and then you can complete your Legal Practice Course (LPC) after your training is over.

So the idea is to complete a undergraduate LLB Hons Law Degree or a non-law graduate can complete Postgraduate Diploma in Law (GDL), make sure you do work experience little as one day a week and vacation schemes.

Then complete the ILEX/CILEX Fast-Track Graduate Diploma and get a job as a trainee with a legal firm and complete three years of paralegal training which exempts you from legal training contract to become a solicitor as the paralegal training covers that because paralegal training satisfies the SRA.

Check this website for more information: