Variety is the spice of life at leading crime outfit Kingsley Napley.
Strawberry laces, jelly snakes, gummy bears, and cola bottles… No one normal goes for a pick ’n’ mix and comes home with just one kind of sweet. The same is true for experience-hungry trainees: variety in seat options makes life that bit better and gives you options in your career. With this universal truth established, consider eclectic London outfit Kingsley Napley. Few firms can offer seats in both crime and corporate, or immigration and clinical negligence, as our interviewees testified: “I couldn’t find any firms that offered the combination of seats I wanted to do.” The Kingsley Napley trainees steered clear of firms that had “a heavy corporate weighting,” and while KN does do corporate and commercial work, you’ll also find lawyers in crime, disputes, employment, family, public law, and more.
“Traditionally the firm has been more litigation-based,” one insider explained, “but many of the transactional and advisory teams, including real estate, private client and corporate, have grown significantly in recent years.” In London, the firm gets top rankings from Chambers UK in several crime categories and immigration; at a national level its professional discipline and POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) teams achieve top marks. ChambersHigh Net Worth also recognises the firm’s strength in financial crime, reputation management and family law.
"Most trainees are in their late twenties and early thirties.”
It’s worth emphasising here that few of KN’s trainees join the firm fresh out of university. “Around half of my intake worked as paralegals at the firm before securing a training contract, while the other three all came with work experience,” one explained. That doesn’t mean it’s a no-go for fresh-faced graduates, but expectations should be tempered given that "most traineesare in their late twenties and early thirties.” With a little more life experience under their belts, it’s unsurprising that our sources prioritised “longevity in a firm” when considering their options for training contracts. In particular, one found KN's impressive genderdiversity stats “highly encouraging for my long-term prospects” – more than 50% of partners are women. What else drew this bunch in? “The firm has a good social conscience with a real belief in giving back to the community,” one felt. “It’s not just something they say on their website.” More on that later.
Trainees liked KN’s simple approach to seat allocation. “Before starting, the firm sends out a booklet with summary information on all the seats,” they explained. “You select five, one of which one must be non-contentious.” All our interviewees managed to secure at least three of their preferences, which are locked in for the duration of the two years.
“I’ve had loads of opportunities to attend trials at the Crown Court.”
Only second-years sit in disputes and crime, which was particularly popular for the “unique level of pressure that’s on you when somebody’s liberty is at stake.” Due to client confidentiality, examples of recent work are hard to come by, but lawyers here commonly work for wealthy (and often well-known) individuals and organisations in relation to offences like sexual misconduct, drugs, violence – you get the picture. The team also tackles corporate crime in the form of white-collar litigation, though our interviewees got most of their experience in “the juicier” general crime group. “I’ve had loads of opportunities to go down to police stations and attend trials at the Crown Court,” one revealed. Day to day trainees were kept busy “reviewing disclosure from the CPS, making sure our records are all up to date, and taking witness statements.”
The large disputes team acts for “a big mix of corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals,” handling everything from reputation management and contentious trusts and probate work to more standard business disputes. Among the reputation team’s glitzy clients are footballer Rio Ferdinand and actress Michelle Dockery (you know, Lady Mary in Downton Abbey). The team recently represented Rebekah Vardy after Coleen Rooney dropped that infamous video on Twitter. Trainee tasks here include reviewing disclosure schedules, research, drafting, and (“on a bad week”) an inevitable amount of bundling and doc review.
In the clinical negligence department, "partners tend to specialise in areas such as cerebral palsy or brain injuries, but as a trainee you’re free to work with everyone in the team,” which also includes personal injury specialists. We heard reports of trainees working on everything from breast surgeries gone wrong and delayed cancer diagnoses to motorbike accidents. The firm recently represented Lady Christine Brownlie after her husband died in a car crash in Egypt. One junior detailed “attending a round table meeting to secure a lump sum payment and recurring annual payments for a client with cerebral palsy.” Plenty of writing opportunities were also available to trainees in the form of engagement letters, initial fee agreements and witness statements. Sources also pointed out that trainees in this seat volunteer at the Action against Medical Accidents centre in Croydon twice a month, “assisting clients with issues such as duty of care and how to make a complaint.”
Immigration is one non-contentious seat option at the firm (others include corporate and real estate). The immigration group has two main focuses: corporate and private client. The seat was previously split so trainees spent three months in each stream, “but now you’re free to work across the two for the full six months.” On the corporate side, the firm works with HR teams handling visas for employees moving to the UK. One trainee expanded that “it means you’re working on a lot of applications for Tier 2 sponsorship,” – i.e. sponsorship for a general work visa – “as well as assisting with advertisements on employers' websites.” Meanwhile on the private client side, trainees mostly assist uber rich clients with “any enquiries they might have.” Completingspouse applications was a common trainee task, for example.
So how about that “good social conscience” trainees mentioned earlier? Well, first they pointed out the firm has a designated pro bono officer, “who’s lovely, and always open to suggestions." One insider highlighted that "we've recently been helping people with welfare benefit claims by appealing decisions that have come from the Department for Work and Pensions.” We also spoke to trainees on the charity committee, which last year helped organise a “very successful” competition themed around Strictly Come Dancing. Then there’s the environmental committee, which has been going for a year or so. “Over Christmas we introduced an eco-friendly wrapping initiative attempting to raise awareness around single-use plastic.” Trainees were hopeful that KN’s new office (near Old Street) will be designed to “ensure we can be as green as possible!” The firm is set to move in 2021.
“You don’t have to be able to sing. We don’t sound great.”
With fewer than 180 lawyers under the roof, “social interactions are never awkward as you know most people's names!” Trainees indicated the firm “goes all out” when it came to socials. "They booked out The Fountain Room in London for the Christmas party,” one insider told us, “which is essentially a big tent in the middle of London. And they put money behind the bar.” Trainees are welcome to join an “inclusive choir” – inclusive in the sense that “you don’t have to be able to sing. We don’t sound great.” Even a pandemic can’t stop the party. At the time of writing sources informed us the firm had just appointed a “head of cyber fun” charged with keeping up the firm’s social side during lockdown.
KN trainees start on £34,000, graduating to £58,000 on qualification. You’ll find bigger salaries in London, but trainees said: “The lower salary is reflected in the hours.” One caveat: “It does vary by department.” Corporate was flagged for having “silly hours.” For most, a standard day ran from around 9.30am to 6.30pm or 7pm, with just a handful of nights working past 8pm.
The firm’s structured qualification process requires trainees to submit a CV, cover letter and application pack consisting of bundles of work from across their seats, appraisals, and a marketing plan. “It’s pretty stressful and all-consuming,” one source vented, adding that “I’m not sure what more they could learn from me that they haven’t after spending six months in the department!” Fortunately, trainees found “the firm is very supportive” throughout the process, and all our interviewees were consoled by KN’s stellar retention rates – from 2010 to 2019 only three of 54 qualifiers weren’t kept on. In 2020, the firm retained four of six qualifiers.
Fit for a Kingsley: All trainees get a £200 wellness bonus “to do something that benefits wellbeing, such as a spa day or getting a new desk.”
How to get a Kingsley Napley training contract
Training contract deadline (2022): 14 May 2021 (opens 1 October 2020)
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 trainees. 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.
Kingsley Napley LLP
14 St John's Lane,
- Partners: 55
- Assistant solicitors: 135
- Total trainees: 12
- UK offices: London
- 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 2020
- Training contract deadline, 2022 start: 14th May 2021
- 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 2020
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2020
- 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 3)
- Family/Matrimonial (Band 2)
- Financial Crime: Corporates (Band 3)
- Financial Crime: Individuals (Band 1)
- Litigation (Band 4)
- Real Estate: Lower Mid-Market (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
- 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)