Kings Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

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. The results have been impressive.

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.

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Whether it’s Kings’ insolvency specialist Eleanor Temple discussing the Bank of England’s decision to raise 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. 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 20 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 Chambers 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.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Just a few months out of pupillage and Kings Chambers’ newest tenant, Nicholas Truelove, has been handed his first big case – a multi-track clinical negligence trial. He is nervous but excited.

“I did a number of fast-track clinical negligence trials during my pupillage, so I have been building up to this. But it’s still a major step. Fortunately the level of support I have received from other members of chambers, including the head of the set, has been fantastic,” Truelove tells Legal Cheek Careers.

Since he joined Kings Chambers as a third-six pupil Truelove has been struck by the “involved” approach of his senior colleagues. “They want to see what you can do, and then help you to reach the next level. That translates into a really good balance between being on your feet in court developing practical advocacy skills and training exercises in chambers,” he says.

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Truelove’s focus is clinical negligence, but this is just one of a broad spectrum of practice areas in which Kings members specialise. The set had a strong commercial focus in particular, but in line with its size – Kings has 122 barristers, making it one of the bigger outfits at the bar – it has expertise in everything from human rights to construction. For Truelove, who spent two and a half years at corporate law firm DWF as a personal injury advocate before doing a mixed crime and public pupillage at 9 Bedford Row in London, the breadth of practice at Kings meant it was a natural choice. “I’ve been able to start developing a focus on clinical negligence while also doing a little bit of public law work,” says the young barrister, who studied American Studies at Birmingham University before converting to law, having grown up in the West Midlands.

Based in King’s Birmingham office in the city’s Colmore Row legal district – the chambers also has offices in Manchester and Leeds – Truelove has an enviable set up that allows him to walk to work from the flat he shares with his computer programmer wife that is located behind New Street Station. Once or twice a week his work takes him to either Manchester or Leeds. The travel means he has built relationships with colleagues in all three of Kings’ locations. Manchester is the largest office, with “a social scene driven by the younger barristers who haven’t yet started families”. Birmingham, which has around 14 barristers and a team of clerks, is quieter, while Leeds “is somewhere between the two”. Across the locations Kings takes on three pupils each year.

As you would expect from a set with 20 silks and a reputation as one of the best in the North and the Midlands, Kings is a hardworking place. When juniors have a big trial on they have to put the hours in – and that often means working late. But at quieter times expect to finish around 6:30pm, says Truelove. There’s also no culture of face-time with most of Kings’ barristers working regularly from home.

Having worked hard to reach this stage, Truelove’s message to prospective pupil barristers is to learn from the setbacks without letting them get you down. “Don’t give up!” he urges. “It took me three good years of applications but it was all worth it.”

Deadlines

Mini-pupillage

2019 mini-pupillage dates will be announced in autumn 2018

Pupillage

To commence October 2019
Applications open 08/01/2019
Applications close 04/03/2019

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A*
Colleagues
A
Facilities
B
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 99
QCs 20
Pupillages 4
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 1/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £45,000
BPTC advance drawdown £10,000

Hours

Average hours 50-59 hours

Average hours are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 35%
Female QCs 5%