Career Insight – Life as a CILEx Paralegal in French Legal Services at Ashtons Legal

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Paralegal and Trainee Legal Executive, Antonia Ridley, gives an insight into the work of the French Legal Services team and explores balancing home-study with full-time work.

Working as a Paralegal in the French Legal Services team, I have a caseload of files involving estate planning and inheritance tax advice in France and the UK, and the administration of Successions and Probate. However, the department also advises on French property transactions, including gifts and transfers.

Alongside employment, I am training to become a Legal Executive with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). I recently took exams in the Law of Wills & Succession and Probate Practice. These helped me understand UK inheritance law, which is essential for considering the UK tax implications of owning a French property. Thanks to this, I am able to work comfortably in both the English and French jurisdictions.

What are the available CILEx qualifications?

Training to become a Legal Executive involves two levels, the Level 3 Diploma in Law and Practice (A level standard) and the Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice (honours degree level). Level 3 comprises ten units, and Level 6 comprises six units. It is also necessary to undertake a period of qualifying employment and complete a portfolio of work-based learning in order to become fully qualified. At this point, there is the opportunity to ‘convert’ to a Solicitor; this is not something I have considered, but might do in the future.

Furthermore, CILEx provides the Graduate Fast-Track Diploma for those with a law degree, along with legal secretary qualifications, Paralegal apprenticeships, and advocacy training. Check out the full range of options here:

How do the Level 3 and Level 6 qualifications work in practice?

Each unit has a course manual, and extra study resources are available online. Tutors are available by email and there are handy forums where students can open discussions. The course is based on remote learning, but there are occasional induction days and revision sessions at the University of Westminster. The exams are scheduled in January and June each year and are currently conducted virtually. Some questions are short-form, but the long-form ‘problem’ questions give room for you to explore the topics covered in the units through realistic scenarios.

Why opt for CILEx rather than a more traditional route into law?

Firstly, there is no need to complete a law degree or secure a training contract. I took a degree in English Literature and French, spent time working abroad to consolidate my language skills and was able to use French professionally on joining Ashtons Legal. At this point, I decided to follow a career in law.

The course is flexible in content and timescales. There are few mandatory units, and students choose the pace at which they wish to take exams. Additionally, remote learning fits around my workload and hobbies.

Finally, although the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is now to be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), CILEx still takes pride in being a more affordable route to law.

I have heard of the CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ), what is this?

The CPQ will eventually replace the Level 3 and Level 6 Diplomas, but those already studying these qualifications do not need to transfer to the CPQ. The framework includes three stages, CPQ Foundation, CPQ Advanced and CPQ Professional, and twenty-two modules. CILEx states that the CPQ aims to promote the status of legal professionals who have not trained as solicitors or barristers.

Are there any drawbacks?

Balancing home-study with full-time work can be challenging. As with all remote learning, self-motivation and commitment are needed to protect study time, which can be hard when there are distractions or competing priorities.

CILEx could also offer more support in developing the soft skills needed to become a lawyer, such as networking and business understanding.

How is CILEx helping to evolve the legal sector?

The organisation’s mission is to drive greater diversity in the legal sector, challenging outdated but widely accepted norms, and breaking down barriers. Recently, CILEx carried out research into the role of the Paralegal, and now encourages those with this role to register as Associates of CILEx. Additionally, on completion of CPQ Foundation stage professionals can register as accredited CILEx Paralegals. This helps validate the work of Paralegals, valuing knowledge over titles and challenging prejudice in the legal sector.

How does Ashtons Legal support the CILEx route into law?

Ashtons Legal is a progressive and forwarding-thinking firm; the Learning and Development team invests in young lawyers and offers financial support for this course. This means I am able to earn while I work and learn not only through study but ‘on the job’ too.

The firm was a pioneer of agile working even before COVID-19 normalised working from home. In addition to flexible working hours, the ‘paid-time-off policy’ lets me book study leave around exams.

Most importantly, Ashtons Legal supports and promotes those who come from non-generic routes into law. For young aspiring lawyers, it is valuable to see a diverse range of people in senior positions.

Find out more about Careers at Ashtons Legal here:


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