The question of why Solicitors are paid more than Chartered Legal Executives comes to me time and time again, when recruiting into the legal sector. People often ask me about the different salary levels between Solicitors and Chartered Legal Executives, which I keep data for. I find it very hard to explain why there’s a difference.

Very often, when a Chartered Legal Executive qualifies, they’ve generally gained around 4-5 years’ experience (sometimes more) in their specialist area of law.

Solicitors have normally gained around 6-12 months’ experience, depending on which seats they’ve completed in their training contract.

So, if anything, then shouldn’t Chartered Legal Executives be paid more to begin with??

So why is there a pay gap?

I’ve done some digging online as to why this is. Essentially, Chartered Legal Executives and Solicitors do much the same job. From a client point of view, we’d find it difficult to distinguish the difference. Solicitors and Chartered Legal Executives often have the same clients, the same caseloads and the same responsibilities. Yet, law firms generally pay Solicitors more money.

There’s actually very little online to justify why this this. CILEx (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) and its education partners will argue that going down the Chartered Legal Executive route will mean that you qualify as a lawyer with much less debt. You don’t need to go to university and take out student loans, while often you’re also working alongside studies.

How much does it cost to qualify?

The cost of studying down the CILEx route (as of September 2022) is £10,214. Often, firms will pay this for their employees to train, while also paying a salary to the employee.

On the other hand, Solicitors who have trained via the LLB and LPC route may have had to pay up to nearly circa £55,000 to train, studying full time without a significant salary coming in.

On the new SQE route, this figure will be more towards circa £31,000, but still without a significant salary coming in while studying.

Maybe this goes some way to justifying the pay gap?


However much it costs to complete the training, my feeling is that if the job is essentially the same, then the pay should be the same. However, if the pay was the same, then surely everyone would want to follow the CILEx route to qualification, as ultimately it will have very little benefit (other than in title) to spend so much time studying while not earning. What am I missing?!

If you’re looking to discuss your career options in the legal market, please get in touch with me on 01392 346222 or for a confidential chat.

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