Kings Chambers was founded in Manchester in 1946, and for 50 years operated as a full service chambers. However, in 1996 the set stopped doing criminal, family and — for the most part — publicly funded work, to focus exclusively on civil law.
With offices in Leeds (which opened in 1996) and Birmingham (2012), Kings has grown in size to become one of just nine chambers with more than 100 barristers. Meanwhile turnover has soared. Between 2010 and 2018 it expanded by a whopping 75% from £20 million to £35 million.
Instructions flow in across the full range of civil practice areas, including commercial, construction, insolvency, employment, planning, public law, sport and clinical negligence.
Whether it’s Kings’ insolvency specialist Eleanor Temple discussing the Bank of England’s latest decision on interest rates on the News at Ten, Mark Harper QC representing sporting icons such as Wayne Rooney and Sir Bradley Wiggins against their agents, or Paul Tucker QC winning an appeal for a construction client to build an apartment block in one of the most sensitive locations in West London, the set is consistently doing interesting things.
On the clinical negligence side, Richard Livingstone recently represented the dependants of a young man who committed suicide after being negligently discharged by Mental Health Services, while Sam Karim acted for an NHS trust that sought to withdraw a patient’s life support. The set has particular experience in aircraft-related deaths — and acted in the inquests into the Nimrod XV230 Air Disaster, the single largest loss of life suffered by the British military since the Falklands war.
Construction disputes handled by the set range from rights of way for HS2 to Premier League football stadia through to onshore wind farms. Kings is also one of the few chambers outside London regularly to represent clients on matters before the Technology and Construction Court (TCC). Indeed, after retiring from the TCC, Judge Gilliland joined Kings Chambers as an arbitrator. Similarly, Sir Maurice Kay recently did the same after leaving the Court of Appeal.
From a rookie barrister’s perspective, there is a range of matters on which to cut your teeth — from supporting more senior lawyers on high profile cases to handling your own matters in lower courts. One tells us: “For the most part I feel very luck to do a job that’s varied, throws up complex questions that need researching, and has a fair bit of variety.”
The set offers four pupillages a year. Training is highly rated — Kings scores an A* in this category of the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2019-20, for the second year running. A first six is described as “generally very good preparation” with a focus on shadowing and then working for “very friendly” colleagues, including Kings’ roster of 21 QCs, one of the best collection of senior lawyers outside London. During the second six rookies can find themselves in court “up to three times a week.”
The library, clerking and staffing were all described as “excellent”. But “the rooms available for more junior members of chambers aren’t ideal”. According to one insider: “The more senior barristers seem to have reserved the nice rooms, but occupancy is fairly low, so you end up with lots of traditional and relatively spacious barristers’ rooms lying empty much of the time, whilst pupils and new tenants use hot-desks and open plan areas.”
Like most chambers, rookies can be expected to work between 50 and 60 hours in a week. Outside of this time, the social life at Kings can be “good fun,” but is limited by the considerable challenge of “getting people together” — which can be “like herding cats”. Manchester apparently has the best social scene, as it’s the biggest office and has more younger members, with Leeds and Manchester a bit hit and miss.