Millicent Grant, the 54th President of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), was inaugurated on 13 July. Scroll down to read CILEx’s interview with Millicent, where she covers her goals for the professional body, diversity in the sector and the implications of Brexit.
CILEx Journal talked to Millie about her vision for CILEx and its members, and social mobility for Chartered Legal Executives.
What is your vision for representation of Chartered Legal Executives?
I want to represent members of CILEx well, and I would like to see the qualification, abilities and potential of Chartered Legal Executive lawyers more widely recognised.
I will highlight their skills, when I have the opportunity, to senior members of government, the civil service and the judiciary. We are qualified lawyers, and even though we accept that the roles within the profession are different, we want to be recognised on a par with barristers and solicitors when it comes to certain opportunities within the profession.
The Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) recognise the value of Chartered Legal Executives. I represent CILEx on the JAC’s Diversity Forum. It is important that the judiciary represents the community it serves, and the JAC is seeking to create a more diverse judiciary so that this is achieved. Chartered Legal Executives with five years’ post-qualification experience are eligible to apply for judicial positions, and the JAC is looking to CILEx to encourage eligible Chartered Legal Executives to apply for judicial positions. There is currently a statutory cap on the positions that Chartered Legal Executives can apply for, but CILEx is lobbying for the cap to be removed.
I was proud to attend the launch, which was very well attended, of CILEx’s Judicial Development Programme in June. The programme will provide members with information, support, training and encouragement to prepare them for judicial appointment. It will connect Chartered Legal Executives with judges, so they can receive the direct mentoring they need, and give them practical knowledge to make a successful application. Many Chartered Legal Executives applied for a place on the programme, and while we establish the programme, to ensure that it is fit for purpose, 10 successful candidates will take part in the 2017 pilot.
How does this affect social mobility within the profession?
CILEx has a very diverse membership. It has a high proportion of female, black and minority ethnic members, and members from a non-traditional social background. The CILEx route to qualifying as a lawyer has made the profession accessible to individuals who may, for financial reasons or life circumstances, not have been able – or wanted – to enter by a more traditional route. CILEx enables members to earn while they learn, so those who qualify as lawyers via the CILEx route do so at a lower cost, and qualify with experience, which makes them ready to work from day one.
As well as other rights, Chartered Legal Executives can obtain independent practice rights, become partners within solicitors’ firms, and form partnerships with other Chartered Legal Executives. The CILEx route to qualification has created opportunities for many, who would otherwise have been excluded from the profession at a senior level.
Can you tell us about the internal restructuring of CILEx?
We are currently reviewing the governance structure and a group company restructure, which we will be consulting on. The proposed changes are due to be implemented during my presidential term. We hope to put ourselves in a position where the duties of the CILEx Group can be clearly divided between the regulator, the membership, and the professional bodies. We will then be well placed, if it becomes necessary to separate the regulator from the membership body completely, and will avoid the problems that other sectors of the profession have encountered.
We are also reviewing and streamlining the way we recruit CILEx Council members: we will be improving and raising our performance level.
How are you planning to raise the profile of members?
CILEx will be promoting its qualification routes, ie, apprenticeships and distance learning, as well as more traditional routes. We will also be highlighting the benefits of qualification as a CILEx Fellow and the benefits of membership.
I also want to raise the aspirations of our members, and encourage them to join a local CILEx branch as a way of receiving support and becoming more involved. The feedback I have received from members, when I have visited branches around the country, is that they are inspired when they see other members doing well and progressing within the profession.
Young people appear to be at a stage, now, where they are responsive to positive encouragement to take advantage of opportunities they may not have had previously. I am the chairperson of the board of directors of a youth club, in what is regarded to be a deprived area of Lambeth in south London. For 10 years, we ran a Trainee Youth Leader Apprenticeship Programme. The programme saw a significant number of young people, with a challenging background and educational history, achieve degrees and get into good jobs and run their own businesses; one former apprentice has written a book based on her experiences, which formed the basis for a play that has been performed at a local theatre. I have found it very inspiring.
Young people have a lot of creative potential. They just need opportunities, encouragement and support. I want to encourage young people, from all backgrounds, to consider the CILEx route to qualification as a lawyer, if that is the career path they want to take.
I always wanted to work in the legal profession, and I was pointed in the direction of the then Institute of Legal Executives (before it became Chartered) by a leader of the church youth group I was in, who worked as head of finance in one of the large City law firms. I have enjoyed my career so far, and I have worked in different types of organisations practising different areas of law.
I have spoken to individual members in different branches, and have been told of members being denied the experience they need, or opportunities to progress and take on more responsibility, even though their employers invest in them by paying for their CILEx courses and giving them study and examination leave.
Our members have a reputation for being good workers. This can sometimes mean that members are not encouraged to progress actively in the workplace, or are reluctant to be seen to try too hard to do so. The challenges they face sometimes puts a rein on members’ ambition. CILEx works with employers, so that they appreciate the benefit of the CILEx qualification and the benefit of supporting and developing their staff via CILEx, and we support members with their professional ambitions.
What about Brexit and the implications for members?
There is a lot of uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for the UK, and the impact it will have on lawyers. The court system is currently being reformed. Together with the other branches of the legal profession, CILEx will be lobbying for the ability for UK law firms to offer services internationally to be protected and to continue. The Establishment of Lawyers Directive (Directive 98/5/EC of the European Parliament and Council) is out of date: despite being recognised as English and Welsh lawyers, Chartered Legal Executives are not currently included. The Brexit negotiations are an opportunity to correct this. No one knows yet what is going to happen to recognition and to the ability to practise internationally after Brexit; however, we hope that it will be based on the legal sector that is needed for the future not what has been needed in the past.
Your maxim is ‘progression in the profession’. What do you mean?
This is linked with having wider recognition in the context of judicial appointments, and getting the ceiling I referred to removed, if we can. I want to encourage members to set high goals for themselves within the profession, and to equip and position themselves to be able to take advantage of opportunities when they arise throughout their careers. The landscape is changing, and change creates opportunity.
I will be encouraging members to develop skills and experience beyond office-based case work. Progression is about personal progression: if all our members progress individually, the profile of the whole CILEx Group will be raised.