Kingsley Napley LLP - True Picture

A wealth of criminal law expertise awaits those who are next in line for a coveted traineeship at this City outfit. 

Kingsley Napley Training Contract Review 2022

The Firm 

In the popular imagination, lawyers are often pictured rushing through the hallowed halls of court to secure a last-minute victory for a client who’s been wrongly accused of a terrible crime. While life at KN won’t exactlyresemble clips from the likes of The Good Wifeor Law & Order, criminal cases are something of a forte for this firm. For trainees with an interest in this area, KN offers big potential. As one source told us: “The firm’s crime offering was a big part of the draw for me. I knew I wanted to work in the City, but I didn’t fancy a heavy corporate side to the work. Not everyone wants to be a corporate lawyer!”

"Not everyone wants to be a corporate lawyer!” 

KN is no one-trick pony however, and trainees told us that in recent years the firm has sought to diversify its specialisms: “It’s been a part of the firm’s business plan to diversify, to make sure that everything is covered – for trainees in particular.”Indeed, KN offers its intake an eclectic mix of practice areas, with the cohort able to undertake seats in crime, corporate, clinical negligence, family, employment, and real estate to name a few. Chambers UK rates KN as one of the best firms in London for its crime expertise, which includes highly recommended services in extraditions and financial matters involving individuals and corporates. On a UK-wide basis, KN wins significant praise for its business immigration, professional discipline and POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) know-how. Other areas that the firm performs well in include civil fraud, administrative & public law, family, employment, clinical negligence and lower mid-market real estate.

“The firm benefits from being a very strong female-led firm,”one source told us; “we’ve got women in senior management, the partner level and the associate ranks. For a young woman looking to have a future in the industry, this is really encouraging.” The firm isn’t resting on its laurels though, as this trainee attested: “In terms of improving access to the profession for minority ethnic candidates, it’s better than other firms, but it’s still not good enough, and they are working to put that right.”It is worth noting that most trainees at the firm are not fresh out of university, and many begin as paralegals (although this isn’t a prerequisite and the firm judges each application it receives on its own merit and quality).

The Seats

KN gets the ball rolling early when it comes to allocating seats: “About four to six months before starting, the HR team sent us a list of the firm’s practice areas, each with a blurb about what work in that seat would look like.” Trainees are required to submit five preferences from a list of 11 options, and the current cohort told us that certain departments can be in greater demand than others: “The firm’s reputation in particular areas means that some departments are particularly busy. For example, almost all the trainees want to do a seat in criminal law.”

“ two days will ever look the same! You might help to instruct clients, or even get the chance to attend police stations and hearings.”

KN’s crimedepartment advises clients on both general and serious criminal cases, representing well-known individuals and corporations on anything from financial crime to sexual misconduct matters. Of course, given the territory, it’s not possible to list examples of the cases or clients the firm has worked with, but trainees were quick to point out that “the seat involves all the interesting work that you would expect.”As a trainee, we heard that you are likely to get exposure to a bit of everything. There’s plenty of drafting and proof-reading evidence documents, but “no two days will ever look the same! You might help to instruct clients, or even get the chance to attend police stations and hearings.” The backlog in the court system over the last year meant that the work came through a little slower than usual, and many court hearings were conducted virtually, but for trainees this wasn’t all bad: “One benefit of these virtual hearings is that you don’t have to travel to get to them, and so you can quickly jump on and get more exposure than you otherwise would.”

The firm’s clinical negligence seat is split into two core parts: clinical negligence and personal injury matters. Both parts are claimant-focused, and much of the work for trainees revolved around assisting with new client enquiries – something that helped our interviewees to “see what the firm is looking for in successful claims.”One such claim can be seen in the ongoing case involving Lady Brownlie, who brought a claim against a hotel after her husband was killed in a road traffic accident in Egypt. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal decided in Lady Brownlie’s favour, and the damages to be paid (quantum) are likely to run into several million pounds. For trainees in the seat, tasks included “drafting letters of claim and disclosure documents for court.”But there are also opportunities to jump onto cases that offer a more specialised experience, as one trainee told us: “In one clinical negligence case, I worked with an expert who was able to provide advice on a niche type of medical injury. Identifying experts in these areas is a big part of the work – finding someone who is willing to provide evidence that will be scrutinised in court.”

In keeping with the firm’s plans to expand, KN’s employmentteam has grown to 24 lawyers at the time of our research. The group represents both employers and employees, with trainees informing us that the seat involves a mix of contentious and non-contentious work: “We often worked on contentious matters like discrimination cases, usually on behalf of the employer, and we were even able to sit in on a mediation on that.” Trainees can expect a lot of work researching policies and procedures, and can get some drafting experience on employment contracts too. Clients here include the likes of Infosys, iDirect, Augustus Martin and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). 

“There is a big focus on responsible business and everyone across the firm is encouraged to get involved with activities, including pro bono and committee work.”

KN’s trainees must do at least one non-contentious seat, which can be covered in immigration, employment, private client, corporate and commercial, or real estate and construction. The real estatedepartment is split into three subdivisions – commercial, residential and construction – that together handle a whole host of sales and purchases and development projects. Commercial matters form a big part of the work in this seat, but we heard there is plenty of work in construction too. The firm’s construction team advises its clients on the engineering and transactional side of projects, and trainees spent time working on things like warranties – something contractors often have to provide throughout a construction contract – and were also able to “liaise with construction managers and attend a couple of site visits too.”The group also handles real estate financematters, and on this front recently represented The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire (which will be home to a designated Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre) on the restructuring of loans in light of its sale to asset manager Brookfield.

Trainee Life 

As one trainee put it: “The departments all differ in terms of the way they work and how they do certain things – each team has a different dynamic.”But regardless of which department they spent time in, trainees were positive about the willingness among senior fee earners to support them: “There is no real sense of competition at the firm, which is refreshing.” Collaboration is the name of the game at KN, as this source explained: “Kingsley Napley focuses on its people and working collaboratively across teams. There are good levels of transparency and a sense of genuinely wanting to hear from all members of staff. There is a big focus on responsible business and everyone across the firm is encouraged to get involved with activities, including pro bono and committee work.”

Interviewees also felt that KN is looking for candidates who are comfortable in small teams and won’t shy away from taking on responsibility relatively early on. “I've learnt that the smaller teams are a far better experience for trainees,”said one. “You get more client contact, more responsibility, and better work culture.” Another revealed that they were “talking to clients all the time and building strong working relationships with them to the point where they would treat me as their first point of contact at the firm.”This source, meanwhile, commented: “I don’t believe that I would get as much of a hands-on experience of legal drafting in another City firm’s corporate team.”This hands-on training style is accompanied by ‘know-how’ sessions every now and then in each of the departments. The firm also “circulates the odd seminar with some interesting speakers”to further bolster formal training. 

On average, the hours at KN were deemed reasonable, and while start and finish times depend on the team, “we are actively encouraged to go home!”Trainees informed us that it is unusual to start before 8.45am, and most logged off at around 6.30pm. As one trainee put it: “The hours aren’t crazy.” Trainees had mixed feelings regarding the qualification process, however. One source highlighted the positive of “having time to think about what is available, as we find out about the advertised NQ positions around May.”NQs are encouraged to apply to more than one department if they are unsure about where they want to specialise, but some found the process “a bit intense compared to other firms,” with qualifiers having to submit a CV, cover letter, and application form with examples of the work they have conducted over the last two years. In 2021, Kingsley Napley retained all of its six qualifiers.

Sharing is caring  

The firm has a commitment to handling pro bono work, with trainees in clinical negligence volunteering at the Action Against Medical Accidents centre in Croydon twice a month. “The firm encourages you to speak up if you know of a charity that would benefit from the legal support of the firm.” 

How to get a Kingsley Napley training contract


Opening dates for training contract applications (2023):Autumn 2021

Training contract deadline (2023):Spring 2022



Kingsley Napley doesn't have a vacation scheme, although it does offer work experience throughout the summer.

KN typically receives around 700 applications per year for its 9 trainee places. 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, the firm is looking for applicants who produced well rounded applications. 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

Successful applicants are invited to an assessment day which generally takes place in late June/early July. 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) and the firm tries to ensure that every practice area at the firm is represented on the panel. During the exercise, candidates have the opportunity to speak with each of the assessors, and vice versa.

Following the speed networking, candidates take part in a case study exercise that includes a witness interview and an element of drafting, followed by a presentation or debate exercise on a current affair. The topics are allocated on the day, and candidates are given some time to prepare before presenting their arguments to the assessors.  

Successful candidates from the assessment days are then invited to attend a final interview with three partners and a member of the HR team. The interview consists of a mixture of competency, skill and opinion-based questions: “Beyond academics we're looking for well-rounded applicants that are going to be good with people.” For candidates hoping to stand out, what matters most to the firm is that a candidate’s personal values match with KN’s firm-wide culture.

Offers of training contracts are made to candidates around August each year.

Kingsley Napley LLP

Knights Quarter,
14 St John's Lane,

  • Partners: 55
  • Assistant solicitors: 135
  • Total trainees: 12
  • UK offices: London
  • Contacts  
  • Graduate recruiter: Vicki Tavener, HR Manager 020 7369 3804
  • Training partner: Fiona Simpson
  • Application criteria 
  • Training contracts pa: 6
  • Applications pa: 501
  • Minimum required degree: 2:1
  • Minimum A levels: AAB
  • Dates and deadlines 
  • Training contract applications open: 1st October 2021
  • Training contract deadline, 2024 start: 14th May 2022
  • Salary and benefits 
  • First-year salary: £36,000
  • Second-year salary: £36,000
  • Post-qualification salary: £60,000
  • Holiday entitlement: 25 days
  • Sponsorship  
  • LPC fees: No
  • GDL fees: No
  • Maintenance grant pa: No

Firm profile

Kingsley Napley is an internationally recognised law firm based in central London. Our wide range of expertise means that we can provide support for our clients in all areas of their business and private life. Many of our lawyers are leaders in their field and our practice areas are highly ranked by the legal directories.

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

Clinical negligence and personal injury, corporate and commercial, criminal litigation, dispute resolution, employment, family, immigration, private client, public law, real estate and regulatory and professional discipline.

Training opportunities

The firm looks for both legal and non-legal graduates who have a strong academic background (achieved a 2:1 degree). A trainee will need to demonstrate commercial awareness, motivation and enthusiasm. To be successful you will need excellent communication skills with the ability to be a creative, practical problem solver. We look for team players who bring something to the table and have a long-term interest in Kingsley Napley and the areas of legal practice it focuses on.

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.

Other benefits

Private health insurance, income protection insurance, life assurance, pension, corporate cash plan and 25 days holiday per year during training. Trainees are also eligible to participate in the firm’s flexible benefits scheme.

University law careers fairs 2020

• Bright Network Festival: 7th September 2020 

Social media

Twitter @kncareers

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Banking Litigation: Mainly Claimant (Band 3)
    • Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
    • Crime (Band 1)
    • Crime: Extradition (Band 1)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 5)
    • Employment: Senior Executive (Band 2)
    • Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
    • Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
    • Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 1)
    • Litigation (Band 3)
    • Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 1)
    • Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 3)
    • Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)
    • Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 2)
    • Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
    • Immigration: Business (Band 1)
    • POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture (Band 1)
    • Professional Discipline (Band 1)
    • Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 2)