TOP TIPS FOR CHOOSING A CILEX STUDY CENTRE
I took a lovely call today from someone interested in joining Brightlink’s legal courses. This lovely person, working in a legal environment, with lots of experience but no legal qualifications, wants to progress her career with promotions, payrises, more responsibility and more interesting work. As we spoke, it struck me how often I hear what she was saying to me…
‘I’m so glad I found you it all sounds so wonderful.’
‘You’re so different to the other training providers I’ve spoken to and worked with’ and
‘Thank goodness I spoke to you before paying three times as much for half the help, support and resources. I wish I’d found you sooner.’
It is possible to study and work to become a lawyer without going to university, without accruing any student debt, with a cost of less than £12,000, payable in small bite sized chunks from the salary you’re earning while you learn. It is possible to use that qualification to go on to advise clients, charging them for your time, manage your own caseload, represent them in court, become a partner in a law firm or set up your own and even to apply to the judiciary.
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) are a qualifications awarding organisation and professional body for people who are studying to be and working as lawyers. CILEx Lawyers study legal theory and practice and they spend time in supervised legal practice.
CILEx accredit a number of study centres to offer their qualifications. Those centres go through the same quality assurance processes and meet the same minimum requirements, the qualifications you get as a result of working with them are the same no matter which study centre you choose. The delivery methods, costs and learner experience vary hugely though and you have the choice to shop around and find the study centre that suits you best and meets your needs.
To make your choice, the most important thing you can do when speaking to study centres is to ask lots of questions. Here are some of the most important questions you can ask to make the right choice.
- ARE THEY ACCREDITED?
This is so important. If a study centre or individual is accredited this means they have gone through quality checks and met certain standards. They are experienced and qualified to deliver these legal qualifications, CILEx have checked and approved them to confirm this. You can expect a certain standard of knowledge, experience, resources and behaviour. To sit an exam in a CILEx course subject you have to have studied that subject with an accredited centre. If you haven’t, even if you manage to enter for, sit and pass an exam, the result will be disallowed, you’d have to start all over again and may even face professional conduct investigations. Don’t work with any tutors or study centres who are not accredited and appearing on the CILEx website as accredited.
- WHAT COURSE MATERIALS ARE OFFERED?
Every study centre needs to provide you with some learning materials and in addition to this CILEx Chief Examiners recommend a wider reading book each year that they feel best compliments their course specification. The range of materials offered can be really wide. Film, audio, notes, hard copy, online, workshops, exercises, assignments, mock exams. We all like to learn in different ways and the best materials are a combination of these things. There are a few things to look out for, as a minimum you want the learning materials to cover all the course specification, to be updated regularly and to include some opportunities for you to get feedback on the way you answer questions similar to those that might appear in an exam.
- HOW CAN YOU ACCESS COURSE MATERIALS AND FOR HOW LONG?
Can you see learning materials on any device wherever you are? Can you read, watch and listen on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or deskptop? Can you print a copy of your learning materials? Can you hear them? How will this study centre make adjustments for you if you have particular learning requirements?
Some study centres provide short access to materials, some really long ranging from 3 months to 15 months per subject. Ask them why. Ask about guided learning hours, how long does the study take the average person.
With Brightlink you can pause your study at any time if things get busy in work or at home or something like a global pandemic interrupts your life for the worse. You can restart again whenever you’re ready, so no time or money is lost and you can progress your study when you’re feeling at your most focused. Ask the study centres you speak to what their arrangements are for pausing and picking up courses, for sickness absence and for renewing or extending courses.
A really important question arises if a study centre are using prerecorded films as their materials. If they are, some may be recording and repurposing lectures that are intended for people who are studying for an LLB, GDL or LPC rather than producing lectures or films intended for CILEx students.
You may prefer workshops to pre recordings in any event, you can be in the moment with others who are learning at the same time and can ask your workshop facilitator questions and for clarification.
- WILL YOU BE ALLOCATED A NAMED TUTOR FOR EACH SUBJECT?
You want to know that there is a subject specialist who you can build a relationship with. They get to know you, your learning preferences and your progress. If you have a question, if you get stuck as you progress through course materials you can email them, call them or make an appointment to meet. Lack of any contact or contact via any generic helpline or email inbox responded to on a rota basis by anyone who picks it up is not the best support for your learning. Don’t accept a hands-off approach either if it’s not your preference, why shouldn’t your learning centre check in with you from time to time without trying to sell you something? They absolutely should!
- HAVE TUTORS MEMBERS BEEN A PART OF CILEX EXAMINING AND QUALIFICATIONS DEVELOPMENT TEAMS?
There can be huge benefits to sharing your learning experience with tutors who are teacher trained, who have legal practice experience and who may have worked with CILEx for some time, especially if they’re inputting to CILEx examining and qualifications teams. They’ll have such a great understanding of the qualifications and the support you need.
- IF THEY’RE OFFERING YOU ONLINE LEARNING, HAVE THEY REAL SPECIALISM AND EXPERIENCE?
It’s been a wonderful thing during the COVID-19 pandemic that people have been able to continue their work and learning thanks to the internet and the technology associated with it. True online learning is more than a switch of the same resources and same methods to a computer screen though. It’s based on the psychology of learning and of internet use. It’s a combination of time spent alone online and relationships and communication with real people in real time. A set of PowerPoints online, a series of animated films or a series of pre recorded lectures alone or a series of video conference meetings and some emailed notes are not effective, gold standard elearning. You’re looking for a study centre with a real pedigree of creating a space that’s accessible to you, available anywhere at any time and includes some wonderful learning support via learning relationships.
- HOW CAN YOU ENGAGE WITH TUTORS? WILL THEY SPEND FACE TO FACE TIME WITH YOU?
We can learn lots for ourselves and it is of huge benefit when we do become independent learners. We also need a community around us to really enjoy learning and for it to be successful. We need to know that we can see and hear someone, hold a conversation, ask about what’s important to us and receive quick responses when we need help.
- WILL YOU WORK ONE TO ONE WITH TUTORS AND/ OR IN GROUPS?
Centres offer one or the other or both, some don’t offer any tutor contact at all so this is a really important question to ask because that can make a huge difference to your learning experience.
- WHAT REVISION AND EXAM PREPARATION SUPPORT WILL YOU GET?
Some centres will ask you to pay extra or not provide any time or space at all for revision and exam preparation. Ask if your tutor will support you with this and how.
- WILL YOU HAVE ACCESS TO AN ONLINE LAW LIBRARY SERVICE?
You may have access via your study centre to Westlaw, Lexis or similar services.
Costs vary hugely between accredited centres. In a survey, learners not yet working with us told us that for the majority of them the cost of their CILEx study is the biggest factor in deciding where to learn. More than cost though, think about value. You could pay £9000 and receive no tutor contact and just one book to learn from, with additional fees if you would like a revision workshop. On the other hand you could pay £3000 and have unlimited tutor support, an online community and free revision support throughout.
While you’re asking questions, there are some things you can notice and use to make your decision too.
- DO THEY RESPOND QUICKLY TO YOUR ENQUIRIES?
If they don’t answer your email or social media message quickly and helpfully then how likely are they to do so when you’re studying with them and need help in preparing for an exam? Do they have service level guarantees? When are admin teams available?
- ARE THEY KNOWLEDGEABLE?
Can they answer all your questions or point you in the direction of someone who can? Do your tutors know what you need them to about study, assessment and careers?
- ARE THEY KIND?
Do they talk about helping you and working with you? Or do you feel as though you’re just one of many, calling to hand over your money and join a conveyor belt?
When you have answers to your questions and you’ve noticed how they work and how you think you might work with them, spend some time thinking about your needs.
- What do you need your qualification to do for your career, for you and your family?
- How have you found you learn best if you’ve studied before?
Compare the centre offers with your reflection on your needs.
Have this question list in front of you as you speak with CILEx accredited study centres. I can’t wait for people to start calling the Brightlink office repeating just these questions back to me!
You can see a list of CILEx accredited centres here https://www.cilexcareers.org.uk/find-a-study-centre
You can contact Brightlink on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02921 888386
You can find out more about Brightlink’s law courses here https://brightlink.org.uk/cilexelearning/