’I qualified as a FCILEx in August. My firm has refused to change my title to ‘chartered legal executive’ despite my qualification as there is no role in my team for a legal exec (I have been handling my own complex fraud cases for five years and do exactly the same role). I have confirmed that I am happy to wait for a pay review but just want to be able to use my title.
I qualified as a FCILEx via the new route (I have a degree, completed the LPC and undertook the qualifying employment). I could have qualified over two years ago but my firm refused to sign off my log-book as there was no role for me. Eventually it did but I am faced with the same problem now.
I have completed the PSC and now want to apply to the SRA to cross-qualify. To do so I need a reference from my firm to confirm I am engaged as a CILEx practitioner. Does my title need to be chartered legal exec to make this happen and can my firm refuse?
I feel like the firm has held me back but if I leave I will have to take a job as a fellow and again ask my new firm for a reference before applying to the SRA. I would probably have to move again within weeks to get the title of solicitor and the increase in pay. Can my firm prevent me from qualifying like this?’
Louise Tyrrell, membership manager, CILEx
I am sorry for the position in which you find yourself.
While individual job titles are ultimately at the discretion of law firms, there are regulatory requirements both for the firm (assuming it is SRA-regulated) and you as an individual.
Under the SRA Code of Conduct, an indicative behaviour that the firm meets its outcomes is ensuring clients are told the name and status of the person(s) dealing with the matter (IB1.3). An indicative behaviour which could demonstrate that outcomes are not being met is misleading information concerning the professional status of any employee of the firm.
In addition to being regulated as part of the firm, you are individually regulated by CILEx regulation and subject to the CILEx Code of Conduct. You are required, among other things, to advise your client of your professional status and that you are authorised to practise (outcome 2.1), and adequately explain and agree with your client the terms upon which your services are to be provided (outcome 5.7).
As you have stated that the role has not changed since your qualification, I can only assume that the decision not to employ you as a chartered legal executive but keep you on as a paralegal is an economic one. The requirements on the firm, and your individual requirements, may be enough to start a conversation with your employer, as it may not have considered the potential regulatory impact of its decision.
Ultimately, you have completed the necessary qualifications and demonstrated the required work-based learning competencies to qualify as a chartered legal executive. While your current firm is not changing your job title to reflect that, in relation to your membership of CILEx you have reached fellowship, and you are therefore a chartered legal executive.
The specific query you have raised about whether your job title needs to be chartered legal executive is one that you would need to raise with the SRA in terms of its requirements for qualification. However, I can advise that it is likely that the SRA would require a ‘Certificate of Good Standing’ to be issued by CILEx, and the fact that you were not called a chartered legal executive in your current role would not in itself prevent one from being issued.
I am sorry that prior to qualification you found yourself in a position where your employer would not sign your log-book sheets for your work-based learning portfolio.
I appreciate this does not assist you now, but I would urge any readers who find themselves in this or a similar situation to get in touch with the membership contact centre, as we may be able to offer assistance or make arrangements to speak with your employer regarding the role of chartered legal executives.
I wish you well in your application, but please do not hesitate to get in touch with the membership contact centre team if we can help with any other matters regarding your membership.
The Gazette endeavours to feature as many of your questions as possible but regrets that our careers counsellors are unable to reply personally.