Trainees at this City firm get the royal treatment with a range of people-focused and commercial practices in “a safe space to learn and grow.”
Kingsley Napley training contract review 2024
If you had to describe Kingsley Napley with one word, it’d probably be ‘people’. Everything from its culture to its work is people-centric, as trainees were more than happy to tell us. “Yes, law firms are businesses, but the way leadership at KN approaches the business is so different,” said one starry-eyed interviewee. The firm’s practices are indicative of this: as one trainee put it, “They’re more personal areas of law that deal with individuals.” This is clear in the firm’s Chambers UK rankings, where KN is praised for its national work in commercial and public sector-specific administrative and public law, extradition, immigration, POCA work and professional discipline. In London, KN earns top rankings in £10–50 million real estate, individual financial crime and general crime. In fact, the firm initially made a name for itself in crime – that's criminal litigation, not miscellaneous lawless shenanigans – back when it was founded in 1937 and through to the 90s, when it became a go-to for white-collar crime. Its client list reads a bit like a history textbook, having worked on cases involving Princess Anne, the family of Madeleine McCann, and even General Pinochet. However, it’s still got a nice spread of corporate and commercial practices for trainees to dip their toes into.
“I know it’s cheesy, but they say KN stands for kind and nice.”
Though trainees will tell you that the firm is still known for its criminal and public law work, more anecdotally, one source quipped that “I know it’s cheesy, but they say KN stands for kind and nice.” In fact, it was the culture and “real feel of community” that drew a lot of our interviewees to the firm. It’s good to note that, though not a prerequisite, KN often recruits trainees from their paralegal cohort. In fact, six out of the nine trainees in the 2022 intake had prior paralegal experience at the firm.
Once the chosen few secure their training contracts over the summer, the firm emails future trainees a list of all available seats and invites them to pick five preferences. Newbies are then assigned their first two seats before joining the firm and get the final two during their second seat. The system is quite flexible, so trainees can speak to HR if they change their mind about their options. “They’re patient and understanding,” said one interviewee, “so you can think out loud to them about what you want to do.” It’s worth mentioning that, although very rare, KN does offer the odd six-month client secondment to Ofgem.
“You really feel like you’re an NQ because you’ve got your own caseload with less supervision.”
Many interviewees had done a seat with the regulatory team, which is split into prosecution and defence work. The prosecution side represents regulators initiating proceedings, such as the SRA (solicitors), BSB (barristers), GMC (doctors) and TRA (teachers). It’s important to note that a lot of KN’s client information is kept under strict lock and key, given the sensitive nature of a lot of the work, so we are unable to name clients for every team. But we can say that this team worked with the General Dental Council on a £50,000 matter concerning failings in the standard of care given to 15 patients.Interviewees agreed that trainees get lots of experience and are “very responsible for investigating. We meet with witnesses to take statements and prepare bundles for hearings.” Case management was described as a key part of the role as trainees are often trusted to progress matters themselves. One interviewee remarked, “you really feel like you’re an NQ because you’ve got your own caseload with less supervision.”
Defence handles the other side, supporting regulated professionals facing disciplinary action. The work is broadly split into legal, financial, medical and student-focused work. The group regularly assists university students with disciplinary action they might be facing, which sources described as “really rewarding.” Of course, we hope you don’t find yourselves on that side of a case! But if you have your eye on doing some defence work, you can expect to draft extenuating circumstances, lead on some appeals and take witness statements in this team. Trainees get a broader introduction to the work, often working with just a partner while attending meetings, preparing for hearings and sometimes liaising with clients. An interviewee emphasised the need for an understanding approach here as “a client’s career might be over so it’s a very tense time for them.”
“You’re a hand-holder as well as the giver of legal advice.”
A family seat at KN is similarly personal, again dealing with clients “going through an emotional stage of their lives.” The group has a range of subspecialties under its belt, including finance, children and new relationships. The latter can involve pre- and post-marital agreements, divorces, surrogacy, child abduction, non-molestation orders, mediations or settlements. However, “one thing we don’t do is public children law, i.e., anything involving social services,” a trainee explained, adding, “but most of what the team can do, I’ve got a case on that.” Specifically, trainees can expect to take charge of drafting witness statements and taking notes in client meetings. Interviewees found the client contact especially interesting as “a lot of family work involves empathy. You’re a hand-holder as well as the giver of legal advice.”
Corporate, commercial & finance gives trainees an insight into the classic City firm spread of work, such as M&A, capital markets, IPOs, tax, commercial agreements, tech, real estate finance and startup investments. Even though the team deals with large corporations, trainees still get their fair share of client contact. “You take the lead on that,” an insider explained, “you’re supervised but it’s up to you to liaise with them.” There’s a range of tasks for trainees to get stuck into, including drafting commercial agreements such as NDAs and website terms, dealing with verification processes and drafting board minutes and share purchase agreements. “They’re good at getting trainees involved in big tasks and keeping us involved throughout the seat,” a trainee added.
KN’s real estate team is split into residential, commercial and construction, through trainees usually have a lot of exposure to the latter. Residential work typically focuses on the buying and selling of private dwellings, while commercial covers the non-private side, and includes recent work with Dandi Living and Luxgrove Capital Partners. “It’s very broad, and I’ve had a good mix of commercial and residential so far,” said one interviewee. Trainees can get a lot of drafting experience, including contracts, leases, notices, reports on title and other agreements. Sources also found it quite admin-heavy as there are plenty of Land Registry applications to be made and deeds to be sorted. One insider reflected, “You come to understand the importance of keeping a deal alive. Time kills a deal, so you have to learn the different commercial considerations involved.”
“The people make the firm experience,” said one trainee, and it was a sentiment shared by many of our interviewees. “When you bump into people in the lift each morning, even if you don’t know them, they’ll always say hello.” Welcoming, friendly and approachable were other key adjectives that popped up in our research on the topic of culture. Sources also emphasised that it’s generally non-hierarchical: “It feels like you can go up to even the more senior partners and have a personal chat or discuss a matter.” Insiders suggested that the office being open-plan really helped facilitate this, as you can always stop for a chat with anyone from managing and senior partners to fellow trainees.
“The people make the firm experience.”
The open-plan layout is broadly divided into ‘neighbourhoods,’ with each department occupying a different area of the office. Trainees can grab free breakfast and cheap lunch from the cafeteria, Lenny’s, which is named after an ex-outdoor clerk who worked at the firm for over 40 years. “You can hang out with your team there, bump into people from other teams and just be a bit more social,” said a trainee, adding that “it helps that the food is good of course.” There are plenty of opportunities to socialise outside of the office, too. For example, trainees have their own social budget and recently used it for cocktail making and bowling! Teams also have their own allowance, and the firm hosts formal events such as a Christmas event, a summer party and an annual charity quiz. Sources made the most of these benefits, as well as an additional wellness subsidy of up to £200 a year. On top of that, KN has also partnered with Self Space to offer everyone at the firm six free therapy sessions a year. This was much appreciated amongst trainees, as the work means often means that “you’re dealing with difficult and upsetting cases. So, it’s nice knowing I’ve got therapy I can use if I’m stressed.”
The work/life balance also received glowing reviews, even in corporate seats where longer hours might be expected. In fact, one source claimed that “it’s probably the friendliest corporate team you’ll ever meet! I get seven hours of sleep a day minimum.” Interviewees mentioned finishing between 6 and 7pm on an average day, but “if you’ve finished all your work, you’re encouraged to leave at 5.30.” The one gripe for trainees was the salary, which is currently £38k for first-years and £40k for second-years. There was a hope that pay would increase to reflect how, according to one interviewee, "it's becoming more of a City firm than it was when I initially joined." As such, the firm upped the salary in September 2023 to £40k for first-years, and £43k for seconds. Considering that the firm isn't traditionally known for its corporate and commercial work, many agreed that the benefits and hours do make up for the slightly lower than market salary, as “the firm doesn’t expect you to be here until 2am and back at 6am.”
On the diversity and inclusion front, insiders felt that they’d seen lots of improvement in representation. “They do real work,” said one trainee. “It’s not just about superficial things that make it look like we’re diverse. They’re committed to changing things from the ground up.” There’s a sub-committee for DE&I and the firm works with the Social Mobility Foundation offering mentoring and work experience for students from underrepresented backgrounds. KN has also participated in the Schools Consent Project, teaching students about consent in sexual relationships. CSR is a big deal at the firm as well, with opportunities to serve food at homeless shelters and even to try out some gardening at a sensory space for children with autism.
“It’s a three-in-one of helping students in their journey, getting practical experience, and being able to help people in need of legal advice.”
The firm also works with charities on pro bono and trainees can get involved with Amicus, which provides representation for inmates facing the death penalty in the US. KN is heavily involved with Z2K, which represents individuals appealing disability benefits. Trainees are also encouraged to take part in the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre. Here, they supervise and give feedback to students as they interview and advise clients: “It’s a three-in-one of helping students in their journey, getting practical experience, and being able to help people in need of legal advice.”
Newbies get training before taking on these matters, but there’s also been training on resilience, managing stress and dealing with vulnerable clients. More informally, each team holds know-how sessions every week or so to chat about the latest developments. Supervisors help trainees in their learning with feedback on what went well and what could be improved during mid and end of seat appraisals. “They ask about your engagement with other people and the firm, your legal knowledge and your competencies,” a newbie explained. Although supervision might vary by the team and the individual, they are all required to meet with their trainees once a week.
Qualification is a multi-step process at KN, starting with a formal written application to the teams that the trainee wants to join. This application includes a written explanation as to why the team should hire you, examples of best work or articles, appraisals, financial statistics, a marketing plan and a business plan. One source clarified that the latter two should explain “why the team and the firm would benefit from it being you. That can be tricky from a trainee level.” After that, second-years do a case study and an interview. The process takes place during qualifiers’ fourth seat and some need to take time off to get the application done, especially if they’re applying for multiple roles.In 2023, five out of eight trainees stayed on.
Sing(sley) your heart out
KN’s choir meets every Thursday and is a great way to get to know people from around the firm.
How to get a Kingsley Napley training contract
- Opening dates for training contract applications (2026): January 2024
- Training contract deadline (2026): April 2024
Kingsley Napley doesn't have a vacation scheme, although it does offer a work experience programme throughout the summer months.
In the most recent recruitment cycle, KN received 500 applications and offered eight trainee places. Applications for a training contract begin with an online form at Apply4Law. An example of a question from a previous year is: ‘Cannabis should be made readily available for medical use in the UK. Discuss.' The firm recruits two years in advance.
KN has no minimum grade requirements, but is looking for applicants who produced well-rounded applications.
Assessments and interviews
Successful applicants are invited to a virtual assessment day. The day is made up of three tasks, and takes around 4 hours.
The day includes a speed networking exercise with a panel of assessors (made up of partners, senior associates, associates and members of the HR team). During the exercise, candidates have the opportunity to ask and answer questions.
Following the speed networking, candidates take part in a case study exercise, followed by a group debate exercise. The topics are disclosed 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 virtual interview with three partners or senior associates and a member of the HR team. The interview consists of a mixture of competency, skill and opinion-based questions. 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 by July.
Kingsley Napley LLP
20 Bonhill Street ,
We have a reputation for being innovative, creative and sensitive in our approach to complex legal issues, and over the years we have played a central role in many cases which have had a profound impact on our legal system
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 2022
• BPP Law Fair – 5 October 2022
• Legal Cheek Law Fair 11 October 2022
• Legal Cheek Law Fair 22 November 2022
• Legal Cheek Law Fair 5 April 2023
• Legal Cheek Law Fair 21 June 2023
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023
- Clinical Negligence: Mainly Claimant (Band 2)
- Crime (Band 1)
- Employment: Employer (Band 5)
- Employment: Senior Executive (Band 2)
- Family/Children Law (Band 1)
- Family/Matrimonial Finance: Ultra High Net Worth (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 1)
- Real Estate: £10-50 million (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Commercial (Band 1)
- Administrative & Public Law: Mainly Public Sector & Charities (Band 1)
- Court of Protection: Property & Affairs (Band 3)
- Defamation/Reputation Management (Band 4)
- Extradition (Band 1)
- Financial Services: Contentious Regulatory (Individuals) (Band 2)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 2)
- Health & Safety (Band 5)
- Immigration: Business (Band 1)
- Immigration: Human Rights, Asylum and Deportation (Band 3)
- Immigration: Personal (Band 2)
- POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture (Band 1)
- Professional Discipline (Band 1)
- Public Inquiries (Band 1)
- Tax: Contentious: Fraud (Band 2)