I’ll qualify that remark…

*stands up* *coughs*

“Hello… My name is Barbara and I’m a Legal Executive Lawyer and it’s been 5 days since I have had to read negative comments about my qualifications…”

Actually, that’s a bit of a porkie but as I’m in sharing mode I’ll continue. I didn’t HAVE to read the comments; I chose to. Ordinarily I would have simply ignored the final year law degree student who was quoted in Lawyer 2B article but I thought the comments deserved a measured response so I gave one (you can read the article and comments here).

In the spirit of sharing I have to tell you that I am enormously bored of the sweeping generalisations that are applied to legal education and qualifications. The idea that a certain brand or style of training makes one person ‘better’ than another represents the side of the law that I am really not fond of – the elitist and superior attitude that leads some (too many in my mind) of ‘the public’ to be wary of ‘us’; the attitude that the piece of paper sets ‘us’ apart from people who don’t and brings down a barrier between the legal profession and the people ‘we’ serve.

For too many years I found myself apologising for not being a solicitor despite the fact that my fee income exceeded many of my solicitor colleagues and I was doing the same, and in many cases, more challenging work. I let myself buy in to the illusion that I sat on a lower tier, that I was the Toyota to their Lexus because of a piece of paper.

I’m damn pleased to tell you that this is no longer the case and hasn’t been for a long time. I won’t bore you with a roll-call of my experiences as that’s not necessary to ‘prove’ my status as a lawyer; I know what I’ve done and what I’ve achieved. I also don’t feel it’s necessary to shout about money as it doesn’t prove anything except maybe counter the perception that ILEX lawyers are all poorly paid.

I’m inordinately proud of my route into the law. It was tough but I won’t deny that there are others who have had it harder. I won’t try to sell you the ideal of Legal Executive over any other legal qualification I only know that it was the right one for me. The fact that choice exists should be applauded; our legal education process doesn’t turn out one-size-fits-all identikit lawyers; it gives us variety, scope, a range of experiences and skills.

When I look at the list of lawyers I follow on Twitter I don’t decide to follow them because of their route into the law or what it says on their business cards; it’s largely an irrelevance. What joins these people together is that they have worked hard to develop their knowledge, giving that knowledge a place and context with the service they provide – they are damn fine lawyers and stand for what I admire about the law.

Now I’m generally realistic and accept that this one blog won’t change the world but if anybody does want to challenge why they are ‘better’ than me because of the piece of paper that’s framed and on the wall in their office/lounge/toilet then bring it on. BUT, I need to tell you in advance (if you’re thinking about it) that it won’t be traditional – we’ll arm wrestle for the future of legal qualifications. I’ve been in training…

4 thoughts on “I’ll qualify that remark…

  1. You’re quite right. All the interviews in that article with “final year law undergraduates” showed was that undergraduates don’t really know anything very much – something that you only realise, whatever qualification route you choose, after some years of experience. The article itself also looks to have been written by someone whose experience of the profession is only 5-10 years old. You don’t have to go a long way further back than that to find that the law was not so apparently exclusively a graduate profession. Even in the large top 10 city firm I used to work for there were several partners who were not graduates and that was after they had ditched things like crime, private client, matrimonial and residential conveyancing. As a pupil barrister one of my joint head of chambers was a non-graduate. The fixation on degrees generally is a modern malaise that has only really come about in the past 15 years or less, mainly as a marketing push since degrees started to cost money.



  2. Anne Thomas

    Hi Barbara, I loved your blog post. I have been working in family law for 10 years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how such incorrect assumptions are made about Legal Executives!


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