Chairman, honoured guests, ladies & gentleman
It is a great pleasure to be here in York for the launch of the new York & North Yorkshire
Branch. This is a part of the country I am not particularly familiar with as I live in the South
West of England and I regret due to other commitments I am unable to spend much time here
as York is a city I had always wanted to visit and explore. Well, I have visited – the exploration
will have to wait for another time. At least I haven't invaded as the Romans, Danes and
various others did from time to time over the years although as my partner Don is a
Hebridean, descended from Norse stock, his ancestors might have been responsible for
some of the historic invading! And my son-in-law is Italian – perhaps I'd better not take this
The Institute of Legal Executives was founded in 1963 out of the Managing Clerks
Association. Our founding fathers – and they were mostly men – set up a professional
organisation to represent, regulate and educate those working in solicitors' offices who were
unable – for a variety of reasons – to qualify as solicitors but were doing valuable legal work
and were well regarded not only by their employers but also by their clients, members of the
Bar and the Judiciary. Many a solicitor has honed their skills with the help – in the past – of
managing or solicitors clerks and in more recent times legal executives.
The jewel of office which I have custody of during my term of office as President bears a Latin
inscription which, translated into English in accordance with the spirit of Lord Woolf's reforms,
reads "Progress through Knowledge". And that is exactly what our members achieve –
progress through knowledge. We study for a recognised and respected legal qualification
whilst working and after hard work and study, passing rigorous examinations, qualify as legal
executive lawyers. And I stress that final word "lawyers". Legal executives are qualified
lawyers and recognised as such not only by our peers but also by the Legal Services Act
I am honoured and privileged to be President of ILEX at such an interesting and challenging
time. I've referred briefly to our formation. Over the past few years ILEX and legal executive
lawyers have achieved a great deal. I think our founding fathers would be absolutely amazed
at how far we have come, but also absolutely delighted at what we have achieved.
We not only work in law firms as fee earners doing litigation, residential conveyancing,
commercial conveyancing, family law, criminal law - indeed all aspects of the law. We run our
own caseloads, we manage teams and departments, we are responsible for client
relationships, we volunteer for pro bono work in our own time.
And now we have extended rights of audience in the County and Magistrates Courts, subject
to additional training; we are able to become partners in law firms - I believe there are now
over 80 legal executive partners – both salaried and equity - in LDPs. We are eligible for
certain judicial appointment as Deputy District Judges in both the Civil and Magistrates'
Courts and First Tier Tribunal Chairs. This is on merit only in open competition with barristers
and solicitors and we would not want it any other way. I am sure it will not be long before the
first legal executive judge is appointed.
We have completely overhauled our qualification to make it even more relevant for qualified,
practising lawyers in the 21 century which we are sure will make legal executive lawyers
even more attractive to employers.
We are an Approved Regulator under the Legal Services Act and have delegated our
regulatory role to our regulatory arm - ILEX Professional Standards Limited. With IPS we
have worked and continue to work on various projects to include our new Code of Conduct
which was warmly approved by the Legal Services Board at the beginning of May.
We have recently submitted applications to the Legal Services Board for litigation and probate
rights for legal executives together with our application for rights of audience and litigation
rights for Associate Prosecutors employed by the CPS. We will, in the course of the next few
months, submit applications to the Legal Services Board for conveyancing and criminal
litigation rights. If approved, this will mean legal executives will be able to set up in business
as lawyers on their own account as well as already being able to enter into partnership with
solicitors and others.
We have come a long way in the past few years but there is still further to go. One of the
main focusses of my year as President has been to meet with and talk to the members, to
listen to their views and find out what they want from the ILEX of the future. I am delighted
that in the course of my term of office three new Branches have been launched – Cornwall,
Devon and now York & North Yorkshire. In addition to that the Leicestershire Branch
celebrated its 50 Anniversary and the Gibraltar Branch and my home Branch – Bristol, Bath
& Surrounds – both celebrate their 10 Anniversaries. I am passionate about our Branches –
it is such a good way for members to meet, network, share experiences and worries and, very
importantly in my view, raise the profile of ILEX and legal executive lawyers in their legal and
In the course of my year I have travelled the length and breadth of the country from Cornwall
to Newcastle with lots of places in between and visited the Isle of Man and Gibraltar.
It is good to work with the Branches – including those in different jurisdictions. It is good to
know that so many of you are pleased with what we do. There has also been some criticism
from time to time, but that’s good too - we need to know when things go wrong so that we can
put them right and learn from the experience.
Remaining on a serious note for a moment, I know the recession has affected our members.
We all know that the new Government is introducing considerable cuts to public spending and
I am concerned that things will remain tough for some time yet. There will be a great many
challenges to be faced by us as individuals, by our firms and by ILEX itself. We pride
ourselves on being flexible and open-minded and I know that with the hard work and
dedication shown by the Chief Executive, Diane Burleigh, all of ILEX staff, our Council and all
of you, our members, we will come through these difficult times and emerge stronger, more
efficient, more confident and even more capable.
I know from personal experience how much hard work is involved in setting up a new Branch
and arranging its launch and so I congratulate Branch Chairman, Patricia White and her
committee on their hard work, commitment and dedication. I am delighted to see so many of
our members here this evening and with this enthusiasm I am sure the York & North
Yorkshire Branch will be very successful. If this evening is anything to go by this is, I suspect,
just the first of many social, educational and networking events which the Branch will organise
So may I take this opportunity of thanking Patricia and the committee for inviting my partner
Don and I to the launch of the York & North Yorkshire Branch and to this lovely dinner and
wish the Branch every success for the future.