Long recognised for defending individuals' honour, Kingsley Napley harbours multifarious talents.
Kingsley Napley and its leading crime team are experts at rescuing damsels (and dudes) in distress – just ask the rich, the famous, and Chambers UK.Fittingly for a firm whose office bears the name 'Knights Quarter,' KN provides a tough legal suit of armour to individuals facing rape and sexual harassment charges, domestic assault accusations, extradition requests, financial crime investigations and more. Recipients of KN's aid include: Darrell Read, a broker accused of fixing LIBOR (acquitted); Colonel Kumar Lama, a soldier accused of torturing Nepalese citizens (acquitted); 'fake sheikh' Mazher Mahmood; Rolf Harris; Rebekah Brooks; and countless others who will remain nameless (pending further juicy litigation).
But the chivalrous lawyers sitting at KN's round table aren't all concerned with combative criminal defence. Chambers UK hails the firm's immigration and professional discipline practices as among the best in the land, and the firm's clinical negligence, regulatory, corporate crime, employment and real estate teams also win hearty praise.
The firm serves companies as well as individuals, and with Brexit providing the current kernel of uncertainty for international businesses and their workforce, the firm has recently bolstered a new 'global team.' This will assist international clientele in relocating their businesses around the US and Asia. There's been change at the top too, with head of criminal litigation Stephen Parkinson being crowned as the new senior partner. KN's lawyers are likely to have been kept abreast of these developments, as, according to managing partner Linda Woolley, "everyone in the firm gets the headline financial figures every month, and our philosophy is that we share everything unless there's reason not to. We trust all people in the firm at every level."
Seat allocation is organised a few months prior to trainees joining the firm. “There are no compulsory seats,” explained one insider, “but there are some rules.” Trainees are required to complete one non-contentious seat, and can only undertake the popular criminal and dispute resolution seats during their second year. Trainees felt “the firm tries really hard to give you your first two preferences, but you still have to provide them with seven seats that you'd be happy doing.”
“Kingsley Napley's reputation in criminal law speaks for itself,” boasted a trainee who'd sat in the crime seat. “They are very discreet in terms of clients, and you quickly realise the work you get is at the top of the food chain.” The department tackles matters that make headlines (like the ones we described earlier), and plenty more that don't. These span drug possession, sexual offences, violence, murder, manslaughter, dangerous driving and fraud – one trainee described it as “a mixed bag of general and corporate crime matters. You don't know what is going to come in each day – it keeps you on your toes.” Trainee tasks included doc review, research, and drafting of letters to the Crown Prosecution Service. Though complex cases limit trainees' responsibility, one source was ebullient: “I won't say that we don't do admin – of course you do. But you get real exposure too: you get to draft, write letters, and go to court and take notes. I've also met with clients and built a rapport even though I'm only a trainee – although I don't feel like an 'only' anything.”
“You don't know what is going to come in each day – it keeps you on your toes.”
Immigration takes two trainees each rotation and allows trainees to dive into work for both corporate clients and individuals. On the corporate side, clients come from the legal and financial services, media, technology and entertainment industries. In particular, they seek advice in changing circumstances: restructurings, mergers or a planned launch in the UK. “I recently worked with a UK-based company that had its sponsor licence revoked,” recalled one source. “It doesn't sound like a big deal, but half of its employees were facing threat of deportation, so it would have had dire consequences for everyone involved. I worked with a partner and associate right from the beginning: we undertook a compliance audit ourselves, I prepared the initial draft representation and then we instructed counsel... all within 28 days!” Trainees otherwise reported drafting forms and cover letters to the Home Office, or chatting to clients. They're also encouraged to attend ILPA (Immigration Law Practitioners Association) conferences to discuss trends and changes in the market, which then feeds into weekly departmental 'know-how' meetings.
KN's regulatory and professional discipline department is concerned with the enforcement of professional standards, both defending and prosecuting individuals who've allegedly brought their profession into disrepute. The firm represents regulatory bodies in education (the EWC), law (the SRA and BSB), healthcare (the HCPC), energy (Ofgem) and construction (RICS and ARB). Its work with the General Dental Council included securing the suspension of a dentist who dishonestly provided a vegetarian patient with an implant containing bovine material! The team also worked to clear a teacher of his involvement in the Birmingham Trojan Horse scandal, presenting that case before the National College of Teaching and Leadership. Trainees described an exciting seat where “things happen very quickly, and can change during the course of the day.” And acting in defence of individuals was engaging for trainees who found themselves “attending meetings with people whose professions are on the line!” But prosecutions on behalf of a regulator generally bestowed more responsibility: “You're responsible for those cases from the beginning. You collect evidence, prepare the case and then hand over to counsel. On the defence side it's more of a traditional trainee role, taking notes in meetings and helping with research – it's more observational.”
In the corporate and commercial seat, trainees told us “clients tend to be individuals, entrepreneurs and start-ups rather than large businesses and institutional clients.” And in real estate, another non-contentious team, trainees got enough responsibility to feel they were “driving transactions forward.” The firm manages the residential developments of wealthy individuals and gets involved in portfolio acquisition. Clients include hirer-and-firer Lord Sugar's real estate vehicle, Amsprop, as well as UK investment manager Long Harbour.
Most trainees reported “getting into the office around 9am and leaving at half six,” and the consensus was that “we aren't expected to be working until midnight and all weekend.” Court hearings and other deadlines could certainly produce late nights, but the workload was far from overwhelming. One interviewee laughingly described the phlegmatic approach to busier periods: “Go and make a cup of tea – you'll be fine.” The firm also subscribes to the popular 'Summer in the City' initiative. “On the last Friday of every month between June and August, we leave before 4.30pm each day.”
“Go and make a cup of tea, you'll be fine.”
It's a rosier picture compared to many City firms – and trainees highlighted other differences too. Having largely avoided bundling and paper-sifting, sources remarked that “as a smaller firm, they give you more responsibility on your cases, and you are involved from the get-go, which you don't often see at larger corporate outfits.” One explained how “across my seats I've mainly worked with individuals; you get to go along with them on a journey. People are happy for me to represent the firm and the firm's values when speaking to clients.” Another added: “If you're not good at dealing with people then maybe KN shouldn't be your first choice! There's a lot of partner and client contact here.”
Trainees could reel off a fantastical array of extra-curricular activities, including, but not limited to: yoga, Pilates, netball, football and running. “We've also organised a Strictly Come Dancing event this year. A professional dancer who was on the BBC show is coming to judge our dancing abilities!” There's a Christmas party too, and trainee socials every couple of months, funded by the firm. “We're desperately trying to burn up the budget and have as many as possible before it's refreshed in April!”
This lively atmosphere prompted trainees to report they “have good friends at the firm, as well as a good job.” We heard that “everyone is really approachable regardless of who they are. You feel very involved – they make you feel part of the team and not a burden.” If they want to remain a part of the team and be kept on, trainees must submit a CV, covering letter, portfolio of work, and then interview. In 2018 all seven qualifiers were retained.
Sources singled out the firm's gender diversity for praise: “There are so many female role models here. It gives you something to stride towards if you see it above you. KN sends out a clear message to both men and women that you'll be picked on ability rather than gender.”
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How to get a Kingsley Napley training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 May 2019 (opens 1 October 2018)
Kingsley Napley doesn't have a vacation scheme, although it does offer a handful of week-long work experience placements between March and September each year.
KN typically receives around 300 applications per year for its six trainee places – up from five in previous years. Applications for a training contract begin with an online form at Apply4Law. An example of a question from a previous year is: ‘If you were to speak at Speaker’s Corner, what topic would you speak about and why?' The firm recruits just one year in advance.
In addition to a minimum AAB at A level and a 2:1 degree, applicants need a commendation on the LPC if they've already completed it. That said, we're told the firm takes mitigating circumstances into account if a candidate has fallen slightly short on the academic side but otherwise impresses.
Assessments and interviews
The firm shortlists 24 candidates to see over two assessment days. Each day includes a speed networking exercise with a panel of assessors (made up of partners, senior associates and members of the management and HR teams), a written case study exercise, a client interview scenario, and a presentation or debate on a current affair. The topic of the presentation or debate is given on the day, and candidates have 20 minutes to prepare.
The day includes lunch with a spread of current trainees, NQs and junior fee earners, giving applicants the chance to ask about life at KN. They also get to ask the panel of assessors some questions at the end of the day.
After the assessment day, the firm invites ten or so candidates back for a partner interview – the final stage of the selection process. Sources on the HR team tell us they keep an eye out for people who are “very motivated and enthusiastic” and “plan to make a long-term investment” in the firm. “Beyond academics we're looking for well-rounded applicants that are going to be good with people.” Communication skills, character, creativity and a sense of humour are all important.
KN's greatest hits: top ten cases
Kingsley Napley has worked on some of the most interest legal cases in recent history. Click here to read about them.
Kingsley Napley LLP
14 St John's Lane,
- Partners 54
- Assistant solicitors 92
- Total trainees 13
- UK offices London
- Graduate recruiter: Vicki Tavener, HR officer, 020 7369 3804
- Training partner: Fiona Simpson
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 6
- Applications pa: 300
- Minimum required degree: 2:1
- Minimum A levels: AAB
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: 1 October 2018
- Training contract deadline, 2020 start: 31 May 2019
- Salary and benefits
- First-year salary: £34,000
- Second-year salary: £36,000
- Post-qualification salary: £58,000
- Holiday entitlement: 25 days
- LPC fees: No
- GDL fees: No
- Maintenance grant pa: No
We are known for combining creative solutions with pragmatism and a friendly, sensitive approach. The relationship between lawyer and client is key. We work hard to match clients with lawyers who have the right mix of skills, experience and approach in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
Main areas of work
The training contract will consist of four seats in both contentious and non-contentious practice areas, which aim to provide trainees with a wide range skills and practical experience. Individual preferences for seats will be taken into account, but will also be balanced with the firm’s needs.
Trainees work closely with partners and lawyers at all levels in a supportive team structure, and have regular reviews to assist with development. The firm has a friendly and open environment which gives trainees the chance to meet clients, be responsible for their own work and join in marketing and client development activities.
University law careers fairs 2018
• London Law Fair: 29h November 2018
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2018
- Banking Litigation: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Construction: Purchaser Recognised Practitioner
- Crime (Band 1)
- Crime: Extradition (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 4)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 3)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 1)
- Immigration: Companies & Executives (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 5)
- Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
- Court of Protection: Property & Affairs Recognised Practitioner
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 2)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 4)
- POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture (Band 1)
- Professional Discipline (Band 1)