Kings Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Kings Chambers is undoubtedly a northern powerhouse and one of the biggest names on the Northern Circuit. Founded in Manchester in 1946, it also has offices in Leeds (which opened in 1996) and Birmingham (opened in 2012). Over the years, Kings Chambers has grown exponentially and is now one of just a handful of chambers with more than 100 barristers. Between 2018 and 2021, the set’s turnover has soared by 26% from £35 million to £44.2 million. 

For the first 50 years of its life, Kings Chambers 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. 

Instructions flow in across the full range of civil practice areas, with Chambers divided into the following four departments: chancery and commercial law, planning and environmental law, administrative and public law, and personal injury and clinical negligence. It has both extensive litigation and arbitration experience. Despite being based in the North, members are said to work all over the country and also in foreign jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, and the UAE. 

Whether it’s Mark Harper KC representing sporting icons such as Wayne Rooney and Sir Bradley Wiggins against their agents, or Paul Tucker KC and Piers Riley-Smith securing permission for the tallest building in Staines town centre, the set is consistently doing interesting things.

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On the commercial side, members, particularly KCs, appear in a number of significant reported cases. We are a little jealous to hear that Paul Chaisty KC has just returned from a two-week trial in the Singapore Commercial Court. Meanwhile, Louis Doyle KC is the co-author of Doyle, Keay & Curl’s Annotated Insolvency Legislation, one of the key practitioner’s texts in this area. 

Planning law is another central area for Kings Chambers — the set even has a Planning Podcast! Construction disputes handled by the set range from rights of way for HS2 to Premier League football stadia through to onshore wind farms. Recently, Paul Tucker KC and Constanze Bell have advised Liverpool Council in relation to Everton’s proposed new stadium. Kings’ planning prowess has also been bolstered by Christopher Katkowski KC — described as “a legend of the Bar” — moving across from Landmark Chambers this year. Kings is also one of the few chambers outside London to regularly represent clients on matters before the Technology and Construction Court (TCC). Indeed, after retiring from the TCC, Judge David Gilliland KC joined Kings Chambers as an arbitrator.  

The administrative and public law department covers a wide array of areas, from the Court of Protection to local government cases. Recently, for example, Sam Karim KC has led a Kings Chambers team of licencing specialists who were instructed during the COVID-19 pandemic to challenge various UK government closures and curfews. Members of Kings Chambers take on both public and privately funded work in this area. Constanze Bell recently acted for a successful claimant in a “reasons challenge” judicial review. The case had a planning element to it — something which is very common at this set. A number of barristers are on the Attorney-General’s provincial panel for civil litigation. 

On the clinical negligence side, one junior describes that they have a “varied and interesting” practice, with another describing that “the medical science side of clinical negligence is really interesting”. Helen Mulholland was recently instructed on behalf of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in a sensitive case involving withdrawal of treatment from toddler Alta Fixsler. Personal injury is described by a junior as “more cut-and-thrust” with “a wider opportunity for advocacy”. 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.

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 junior tells us: “For the most part I feel very lucky to do a job that’s varied, throws up complex questions that need researching, and has a fair bit of variety.”

There is seemingly a supportive culture at Kings Chambers, which continues from pupillage into tenancy with colleagues “always on hand over the phone if needed”. One barrister, who moved to Kings Chambers from another set, commented that they were “provided with extensive support and mentoring when developing new practice areas”. 

Like most chambers, rookies can be expected to work between 50 and 60 hours a week. Members are generally happy with their work/life balance. One junior observes that their senior colleagues with children are supported, with clerks being “fully supportive of part-time working/non-working days fixed each week”. 

Views on social life at Kings Chambers are mixed, with juniors commenting that there is a considerable challenge in “getting people together” which can be “like herding cats”. Manchester apparently has the best social scene, as it has the biggest office and more younger members. Leeds and Birmingham can apparently be a bit hit and miss, with one junior complaining that “down in Birmingham there isn’t much”. When social events do happen, however, they are described as “good fun”. 

In terms of the buildings, Manchester and Leeds are described as “magnificent”, especially following the recent renovations in Leeds — we hear that there was a £500,000 makeover in 2021! Both are centrally located in their respective cities and much of their stream of work comes from the many big firms around them. The Birmingham building, whilst also central, is described as “well-furnished” but comparatively “a satellite site and small”. It did benefit from some additional conference facilities being created during the pandemic. 

Inside the buildings, one junior commented that “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, while pupils and new tenants use hot-desks and open plan areas.” The library, clerking and staffing were, however, all described as “excellent”. 

The set offers up to four pupillages a year across its locations. Training at the set is highly-rated. The 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 20 KCs, one of the best collections of senior lawyers outside London. During the second six, rookies can find themselves in court “up to three times a week.” All offers of pupillage are made with a view to tenancy.  

Kings Chambers emphasises on its website that it has a focus on equality and diversity, and welcomes candidates “from all backgrounds” and “sectors of the community”. Indeed, in September 2021, alongside Cornerstone Barristers, Field Court Chambers, Francis Taylor Building, and Landmark Chambers — all other specialist Planning, Property and Public Law sets ― it launched a mentoring scheme for underrepresented groups at the Bar. The set says that it is looking to develop barristers with an “uncompromising attitude to quality and client service”. 

Kings Chambers recruits through the Pupillage Gateway. After application sifting, first-round interviews take place, which are conducted by at least two members of Chambers and last around 15-20 minutes. The second-round interview is more extensive and takes place in front of a panel, typically including at least one KC. Candidates are normally asked to deliver a presentation to the panel on a topic of their choice. They may also be expected to provide a submission in respect of a problem provided in advance of the interview. Kings Chambers states that it is not looking for the “finished article” — it is the purpose of pupillage to produce this. The set is, however, looking for candidates with “the potential to become excellent barristers”. 

What The Junior Barristers Say

Arya Tabrizi

Your journey to pupillage

I went back to university at the age of 26 to study law part-time alongside working at a law firm. During this period, I realised that it was the Bar or bust for me.

At this time, I was taking part in lots of mooting and there were many highlights, including winning the National Speed Mooting competition and appearing in front of Lady Hale PSC in the Supreme Court.

Then, while I was in the last year of my undergraduate degree, I applied for pupillage and scholarship. I was fortunate enough to be offered both, one of which was pupillage by Kings Chambers, which was my first-choice set.

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The pupillage experience

I was first drawn to Kings Chambers by their reputation for excellence, the quality of their work, and the friendliness of barristers and staff when I visited the mini-pupilage fair.

This initial experience carried on into pupillage which proved to be thoroughly enjoyable and productive. I learnt a tremendous amount.

In the first six, there was a real focus on drafting and my writing improved significantly, but there was also always an explanation as to the tactical thinking surrounding JSMs, trials and applications. There was a real education in the aspects of litigation too which you don’t really find in books, and I felt that I developed a commercial understanding of how to run a case, as well as a legal understanding.

In my second six, alongside doing my own work, I was fortunate to be able to continue being involved in my second six supervisor’s practice. This was really beneficial, as conducting your own cases and trials gives you a different perspective from which to absorb information and learn.

One thing that really helped with my development was always receiving extensive feedback on every piece of written work which my supervisor and I would discuss. On top of this, there was a monthly review which gave me a clear idea of how I was progressing and highlighted the areas that required improvement.

From the very beginning of my pupillage I was also fortunate enough to be involved in complex multi-million-pound cases which were a real learning curve.

I’m pleased to say that following my pupillage, I continue to have great relationships with both of my supervisors who I often turn to for advice about my own practice.

The whole team at Kings is incredibly supportive, and I came out of my 12 months of pupillage with a book of contacts who are genuinely happy to help wherever they can. This makes you feel very secure.

From start to finish you are supported every step of the way, and also have fantastic opportunities to network, attend events with law firms, and build up relationships. My pupillage experience at Kings Chambers is one that I’d recommend to anyone.

The transition from pupil to tenant

It was a really smooth experience as I was already doing my own fast track trials during pupillage which continued into early tenancy.

The work did progress soon after that, however the day-to-day of being on your feet was largely the same.

I’d also say the transition was aided by the fact that, at Kings Chambers, you are treated as a member from day one and are always consulted about your practice and workload even as a pupil.

What is your practice like now?

I am in court every day covering various matters, and my paperwork practice is ahead of where I thought it would be at this stage.

I have also already had the opportunity to settle pleadings which have been issued in the High Court, conduct inquests, and start a practice in military work.

Fortunately, the progression to clinical negligence work was quick, and the opportunities to develop your practice are plentiful.

Of course, it can be intense at times, there is no denying that, but that is life at the Bar, and if you enjoy the work then that helps enormously. Plus, the clerks are always on hand to accommodate holidays or time off.

What is the culture of chambers?

The best way to describe the culture at Kings Chambers would be friendly excellence. Everyone at chambers is top of the class at what they do and while you are expected to rise to that, you will always receive maximum support in reaching those levels. Ultimately, everyone wants to see you succeed and be happy while doing so.

Another standout feature is the quality of the clerking and support teams, who are exceptionally good. I’d heard about their reputation before I arrived, but it is only when you start to work with them that you realise just how good they are.

Outside of work, we have a very healthy social life too. Events are held every month and are always lots of fun!

Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers

My top tip would be to download the Professional Statement from the BSB website. This document outlines what our regulator considers to be the key attributes a barrister needs on the first day of practice.

Refer to it regularly and ask yourself how you could evidence each attribute. If there are any gaps, try and fill them!

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance
Social life
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2023-24 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 92
KCs 22
Pupillages 5
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 1/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies.


Pupillage award £70,000
Bar course drawdown £25,000


Female juniors 34%
Female KCs 18%
BME juniors 7%
BME KCs 9%

The Chambers In Its Own Words