For the criminally minded, no line-up would be complete without Kingsley Napley.
A passion of crime
Nothing beats a good British drama. And it doesn’t get much more dramatic than A Very English Scandal starring Hugh Grant as the late Jeremy Thorpe, the MP facing allegations of conspiring to kill his ex-lover. Yes it was fabulous, you say, but what’s it got to do with my Kingsley Napley research? Well, it’s just one example of the firm’s hand in a case at the centre of the nation’s attention – founding partner Sir David Napley acted for Thorpe in the trial depicted in the BBC drama. We might also cite the firm’s representation of Ian Ball, accused of trying to kidnap Princess Anne in 1974 after shooting her security guard, or its role advising former Prime Minister Tony Blair during the Hutton Inquiry. In the world of crime, Kingsley Napley is positively kingly, achieving a top crime ranking in Chambers UK. It also sits among the best for financial crime, public law, immigration, professional negligence, financial regulation and clinical negligence.
Next to none of the trainees we spoke to had taken a direct path from graduation to training contract: “There’s a tendency to prefer candidates who have a bit of experience.” There were some trainees not long out of university, “but they still might’ve worked for a year.” Between them, the current lot had experience with NGOs, in real estate and paralegalling, either at KN or elsewhere.
There was naught but praise for the firm’s “really structured” seat allocation process. Before starting, rookies are sent details of the different departments and asked to give five preferences. The firm then draws up a plan for the whole two years, and “makes sure everyone gets at least three” of their preferences. Our sources “really enjoyed knowing upfront where I was gonna be.” Any rules? Everyone must do at least one non-contentious seat, and stints in crime and dispute resolution (the largest departments) are usually given to second-years.
“… drafting letters of representation to the Crown Prosecution Service.”
Because of the nature of the work at KN, the firm is understandably protective of client confidentiality, which means we can’t give specific examples of its recent criminal work. We can tell you the group acts for high-profile (often well-known) individuals and organisations in relation to offences like sexual misconduct, drugs, firearms, domestic violence – you get the picture. The team handles corporate and financial crime and white-collar work as well, but trainees are typically more involved in general crime. The subject matter is often heavy-going: “I went to a police interview yesterday regarding allegations of rape made against one of our clients.” For work like this, we reckon you need to be made of strong stuff. “Personally it doesn’t matter much to me,” one source felt. “I’m just a cog in the system.” Trainee tasks include “corresponding with clients, investigators, the prosecution and experts; taking witness statements; and liaising with counsel.” Trainees also attend client meetings, “usually with a solicitor but occasionally alone.” There are also “meatier tasks like drafting letters of representation to the Crown Prosecution Service.”
The dispute resolution team works for both business clients like software company Thought Machine and Rangers FC, as well as individuals – the firm recently represented Madiyar Ablyazov, the son of a leading Kazakh businessman, in a dispute over £1.1 million given to him by his dad. Acting for the defence in a freezing injunction in a fraud case means “reviewing all the disclosure documents to see whether we can challenge the court's decision.” For trainees this entails “a lot of research and drafting to tight deadlines.” There’s also a reputation management team which works for high-profile individuals who've had defamatory or libellous comments made about them in the media. Ooh, met any celebs? “Mmm,” a tight-lipped trainee almost confirmed. We can reveal that the firm is a long-standing adviser to Dame Shirley Bassey and advised MP Damian Green on sexual assault allegations against him.
Recently KN's immigration solicitors have found themselves acting “basically as a hotline” for clients in a tizzy about Brexit. More generally, the team is split between work for businesses and individuals – trainees spend three months doing each. They could be “managing anywhere between ten and 20 cases,” which could last “as short as a week or a couple of months.” On the corporate side the firm works with HR teams handling visas for moving employees to the UK. This means “drafting visa application forms, and liaising with the client on what information we need to support their application.”
The work in regulatory also has two sides to it, but trainees work on both simultaneously. One side of the practice advises regulators like the Health and Care Professions Council, and prosecutes individuals on its behalf. In one such case, the firm investigated allegations of rape against a paramedic. In another case, the firm acted for the Education Workforce Council in a hearing about a teacher who brought a snake into school. The firm also defends individuals “who’ve allegedly brought their profession into disrepute.” Think dentists, accountants, doctors, psychoanalysts and... solicitors. “I enjoyed cases where the SRA was investigating a law firm most because the SRA is so familiar to me,” one trainee shared. Working with witnesses means “drafting statements and conducting interviews,” but much of the work is “research-based – figuring out what you can and can’t do as a regulated professional.”
“...huge claims that can take years to complete.”
The clinical negligence team handles claims involving cerebral palsy, birth injuries and fatalities. These are often “huge claims that can take years to complete.” There’s also some personal injury work. Trainees said this kind of work means “you almost have to become an expert in a very particular injury or area of the body.” In one case, “there was a farm or industrial accident in which a chain snapped. We were looking at tension and velocity, and there were experts who talked about the physics and tried to recreate how the damage and injuries would have occurred.”
Non-contentious seat options include real estate and construction, private client, and corporate and commercial. Trainees said the latter could be quite tech-industry focused, with clients like “startups and entrepreneurs.” One trainee told us about working on a share sale, “helping out with the due diligence and disclosure process, reviewing commercial agreements, and drafting an introducer agreement and loan agreement.” Trainees also attend “events hosted every month with Angel Academe, where entrepreneurs do pitches to potential investors.”
Across groups, a 6.30pm finish for trainees is closest to average, although real estate can see late finishes (“10.30pm was the latest”) and so can regulatory, which required “a few 10pm-ers” for one trainee. And the hours in crime can be, well, criminal – “it’s not fun when you have to cancel plans last minute.”
“I got a perfect score for my Viennese waltz.”
Trainees described KN as “very inclusive.” The firm also stands out for its diversity – over half of partners are women and around a fifth are from BAME backgrounds. Interviewees also said there’s “an extra focus on what you can do beyond being a solicitor.” The firm has partnerships with mental health charity SANE and children’s charity Noah’s Ark, and in 2018 a trainee-led Three Peaks challenge raised £10,000. The firm also raised £16,000 at ‘Strictly Come KN’, when “a few people paired up with professional dancers and put on a show.” Partners paso dobled, trainees tangoed and cha-cha-chas were cheered. Former Strictly star Robin Windsor even dropped in to judge: “I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I got a perfect score for my Viennese waltz.”
As much skill (if not more) is required off the dancefloor for the “intense” NQ process. Trainees must submit a CV, cover letter and application pack consisting of “bundles of work from all our seats, and all of our appraisals.” With two reviews per seat, trainees get eight appraisals in total. “It’s stressful,” sources admitted of the NQ process, “but we’re told right from the start, so we shouldn’t be preparing two weeks before.” After the application, there's a sit-down interview with a partner panel. “I struggle to see what they could learn about me in an interview that they haven’t learned from six months of me working in the department,” one source felt, though another said: “Having a formal process is good for fairness.” The firm has an impressive NQ retention record: from 2010 to 2018 it only let go of three out of 48 qualifiers and in 2019 all six were retained.
There’s a new environment committee for green trainees to get involved with – its first aim is to reduce plastic waste in the office.
How to get a Kingsley Napley training contract
Training contract deadline (2021): 31 May 2020 (opens 1 October 2019)
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: 112
- Total trainees: 12 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: 1st October 2019
- Training contract deadline, 2021 start: 31st May 2020
- 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 2019
• London Law Fair: 27th November 2019
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2019
- 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 5)
- 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 4)
- 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 3)
- Partnership Recognised Practitioner
- POCA Work & Asset Forfeiture (Band 1)
- Professional Discipline (Band 1)
- Tax: Contentious: Fraud Recognised Practitioner