AS THE number of graduates vying for training contracts grows, more people are opting for the legal executive route into the profession, a new study shows.

Figures released by the Institute of Legal Executives show 16 per cent of people studying with ILEX last year were graduates – often of law – compared with only 13 per cent in 1990.

The institute's senior education and training executive Patrick Casey says the increase in graduate recruits shows newcomers to the profession are looking to gain both experience and specialist expertise, and many are enticed by the “financial cushion” of earning while they learn.

He says there is a “growing trend” among firms to opt for paralegals over trainees, and the legal niche developed by ILEX members gives them an added advantage.

“There is a big shift in emphasis towards paralegals and legal executives are included in that,” says Casey. “The advantage legal executives have is that they have a specialism which is what the paralegals don't have.”

Casey says legal executives are now held in “high regard” by the profession, and increased marketing of the alternative route of entry will bring additional members to the institute.

“What was lacking before was the marketing of this route, people just weren't aware of it,” he says.

“I think it is now becoming very popular.”