The Government Legal Department: career opportunities for Chartered Legal Executives

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton, GLD Deputy Director leads a team of lawyers, paralegals and administrators, engaged in litigation on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. He is also a member of the GLD Paralegal Forum, which seeks to develop career students and Graduate members.

The Government Legal Department – the government’s principal legal advisers – provides advice to most central government departments, including the Ministry of Justice and Home Office.

Qualified lawyer opportunities

Each year, GLD offers a number of pupillage and training contracts through the Government Legal Service (GLS) legal trainee scheme. Further details can be found on the GOV.UK website, including details of the financial assistance available for Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) fees.1

In addition, GLD holds regular recruitment campaigns (at least once a year) for qualified lawyers, advertised on the ‘Government Legal Service Jobs’ (GLS) page of the GOV.UK website.2 Depending on post-qualification experience (PQE), successful candidates are appointed as either legal officers (ie, those with less than three years’ PQE) or grade 7 lawyers.

Since June 2015, Chartered Legal Executives have been eligible to apply for GLS externally advertised, qualified-lawyer roles.

Paralegal opportunities

In recent years, GLD has significantly increased the number of opportunities for paralegals, and there are now over 100 paralegal posts within the organisation. The most recent paralegal recruitment exercise concluded in December 2016, through which 19 successful candidates were offered permanent positions at executive officer grade.

GLD follows the standard civil service grade structure and career progression opportunities for paralegals (in ascending order) are executive officer (EO), higher executive officer (HEO) and senior executive officer (SEO). To complete the picture, opportunities for qualified lawyers begin at the next level up, legal officer and grade 7 lawyer.

The majority of paralegal roles are within the Litigation Group in the areas of immigration and personal injury. However, significant numbers of paralegals are also engaged in the Employment Group, in commercial property work and within our specialist Bona Vacantia team, which deals with the assets of dissolved companies and the estates of persons who die intestate.

Although legal qualifications are not essential for GLD paralegals, the majority do hold a law degree, LPC, BPTC and/or CILEx Level 3 and 6. There are also a number of qualified lawyers, including solicitors and CILEx Fellows, who are engaged as paralegals at grades HEO and SEO.

Many GLD paralegals aspire to full qualification as a solicitor, barrister or CILEx Fellow and are engaged in study for LPC, BPTC or CILEx exams.GLD currently supports approximately 30 staff, either through financial contributions towards course/exam fees or through the supervision of ‘qualifying work’ by a qualified lawyer for the purposes of building a CILEx portfolio. In this respect, GLD paralegals find no difficulty in satisfying the CILEx criteria of 20 hours’ work per week of a ‘wholly legal nature’. Indeed, paralegals in the immigration teams litigate over 50% of all new cases (approximately 17,000 each year) and handle their own significant caseloads.

GLD is committed to providing career development for all its people. It is developing career pathways for paralegals by providing opportunities for promotion (at both paralegal and qualified lawyer grades) and through the creation of paralegal roles more widely across the business, which will allow existing paralegals to broaden their legal experience through internal development moves. GLD is also working towards the future introduction of a number of legal apprenticeships.

For anyone who is interested in finding out more about the work of GLD, please click here.

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  1. Available here.
  2. Click here.

About the Government Legal Department

The Government Legal Department has four main business areas: Advisory, Litigation, Employment and Commercial.

ADVISORY GLD lawyers advise whether government policy can be implemented under existing legislation, or whether new primary legislation is required. They play a key role in preparing a bill through parliament, and work closely with officials, ministers and parliamentary counsel. GLD lawyers also draft secondary legislation. The role of GLD lawyers in the development and implementation of new legislation is unique within the legal profession.

LITIGATION Each year the GLD litigates some 30,000 cases on behalf of government, which range from cases of constitutional importance, such as the recent high-pro file article 50 challenge in the Supreme Court, to large volumes of immigration and personal injury claims. GLD Litigation Group also supports and represents parties in a significant number of public inquiries and inquests.

EMPLOYMENT GLDs Employment Group is one of the largest employment law practices in the country. It acts in cases brought before an employment tribunal, and in the county court and the employment appeal tribunal. The group advises on  non-contentious matters, such as employment policies and practices, and compliance with new legislation, and seeks to provide its clients with training and information to help prevent employment problems in the future.

COMMERCIAL The GLD Commercial Law Group provides advice across a wide range of legal issues, including public procurement law, contract law, intellectual property and state aid, in connection with large-scale, complex public procurement and day-to-day transactional commercial matters.

Case study

Joseph Kitchen

I finished my LPC, in 2013, without securing a training contact. I worked as an immigration paralegal in a high street firm before joining GLD, which was then known as the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, at the civil service grade of executive officer. I continued to apply for training contracts as the deadlines came and went, but without success. I had not previously considered CILEx as I did not think it was possible to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive having started on the solicitor path.

During a conversation with a colleague, I found out that because I had already done the LPC, I would be exempt from the CILEx educational component. I looked into it further, and discovered that I was eligible for the graduate route to qualification as a Chartered Legal Executive. All I would need, in addition to my LPC, would be three years of qualifying experience, the last one of which needed to be served as Graduate member of CILEx, and the LPC counted as 42 weeks towards the three- year total.

I joined CILEx, as a Graduate member, in April 2015. I completed the three years’ qualifying experience and have now been admitted as a Fellow of CILEx following the assessment of my portfolio.

In November 2015, prior to my admittance as a CILEx Fellow, I applied for a position as a legal officer within GLD. This was the first GLD qualified-lawyer recruitment campaign that was open to Chartered Legal Executives, and I was able to submit an application, despite not yet being admitted as a Fellow, because the GLD eligibility criteria include those qualified or about to become qualified. The recruitment process was challenging, and involved consideration of a legal scenario which I was then required to discuss in an interview to test my legal professional skills.

I am pleased to say that I was successful and, in September 2016, I was appointed as a legal officer in a private law litigation team. I look forward to broadening my skills, knowledge and experience in other areas of government legal work over the next few years.

To read the article in full please click here.

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