Cockerill, who was a cornerstone of the famed ABC front row in 262 appearances for the club, has been acting head coach since Christmas and has guided the team to the top of the Guinness Premiership and into a position to challenge for a place in the end-of-season play-offs as well as into the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.
As a player, Cockerill won five league titles and two Heineken Cup medals with Tigers, as well as collecting 27 England caps.
Tigers chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “Richard has been doing a tremendous job as acting head coach and we have been very impressed by his work in that role.
“He knows what makes this club tick and he is very passionate about bringing the best out of the players and bringing success to Leicester Tigers.
“Richard has worked very well with the players and forged a good team with assistants Matt O’Connor and Paul Burke and the backroom staff.
“We have watched his coaching and management style develop since he joined the coaching staff and we are convinced that he is the man to continue to push Tigers forward.”
Chief executive Peter Wheeler said: “I am delighted that Richard has accepted our offer to lead the rugby operations of the club.
“He played an important role as a player through the most successful period of the club’s history and has brought to his coaching role the commitment, passion and enthusiasm he displayed on the pitch.
“We have met with most of the best coaches in the world and believe that our current ream of Matt O’Connor and Paul Burke, led by Richard, will be the most successful in keeping Leicester at the top of European club rugby.”
Cockerill said: “I know that the job of head coach at Leicester Tigers is one of the biggest jobs in rugby and I feel privileged to be given the appointment.
“The players have been fantastic, I have had great support from the staff and I am delighted to be appointed. This club is very important to me, it has been a big part of my life and I just want success for Leicester Tigers and the people here.”
Matt O’Connor will continue as backs coach and Paul Burke continues in his role as specialist kicking coach.