Melanie Wilkins, Associate at Lester Aldridge, specialises in estate administration, drafting wills, trusts and powers of attorney. Melanie also assists charities with legacy-related matters. She explains how she became an authorised Chartered Legal Executive and Probate Practitioner using CILEx Regulation’s  joint application.
What is your specialist area of law?
Private Client – I deal with estate administration, drafting wills, trusts, powers of attorney and Court of Protection matters.
Please summarise your work and experience in the legal sector, to date.
I joined the legal sector after leaving university with a degree in English and not really knowing what I wanted to do in terms of career. However, my overriding objective was to find a job which would allow me to help others in times of difficulty.
I applied for the role of probate assistant at Lester Aldridge LLP  as it sounded interesting and studied for the CILEx qualification while working. I received invaluable training from very experienced lawyers and quite soon started to manage my own caseload.
Studying while earning a wage suited my situation as after university I could not afford to enter into any postgraduate studies in order to follow the traditional route of becoming a solicitor.
Another advantage of the CILEx qualification is its flexibility. I took a break to have a family and returned to the CILEx studies when my daughter was older. I was made an Associate in my team in 2018 and am now one of the senior fee earners in the Private Client department.
When did you qualify as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives?
How did you first hear about the possibility of gaining Practice Rights?
Through the CILEx Regulation website .
Please give your reasons for applying to gain Practice Rights in your chosen area of law.
I think it is a very good idea to offer a joint application for Fellowship and Probate Practice Rights  as much of the information required in the Fellowship portfolio is also required to prove your competency to be awarded Practice Rights. It made sense to me to apply as I have been practicing private client law for a long time but came late to qualification. Having the Practice Rights shows that I have reached a benchmark of quality. Although it was not my motivation, I recognise that it also opens up opportunities to practice independently following regulation of your entity.
Please describe the overall application process and tell us what worked well and what we could do to improve the process for future applicants.
I found the guidance a little difficult to navigate at first but the staff at CILEx Regulation were extremely helpful in answering any queries or clarifying what was required by the assessors of the portfolio. I found the window of two years’ evidence of experience in all areas of work a little difficult in places as two years is a very short time in probate practice.
Since gaining your Practice Rights, how has your work experience changed, and what benefits have there been to you, your employer/your practice and your clients?
Gaining Practice Rights has given me more confidence in my abilities. It also widens my career prospects. Clients do not necessary understand the CILEx qualification, and therefore having Probate Practice Rights shows that I am a specialist in my area and it adds value to my team.
Would you recommend other CILEx members to apply for Practice Rights, and if so, why?
Yes, particularly if you are applying for Fellowship at the same time, or even if you are not ready to qualify as a Fellow and would like some recognition of your experience in the field you are working in.
To find out how you can take advantage of these opportunities, please contact the CILEx Regulation Practitioner team on 01234 845770 or email email@example.com