Most NQs are just thrilled and relieved to have got to the end of their training contract. Not David Napley! The moment Napley, then in his late teens, had completed his articles (the predecessor of the training contract) and qualified as a solicitor in 1937, he co-founded a City law firm that was to become the now internationally renowned Kingsley Napley.
Napley’s legal career and his law firm have both enjoyed meteoric success. Whilst Napley went on to be one of the leading criminal solicitors of his day, Kingsley Napley now has a headcount of around 200 lawyers and a long history of celebrity clients from the royal family to WAG Rebekah Vardy. Trainees confirm this reputation, telling Legal Cheek that their work often involves “high-profile cases with celebrity and/or high net worth clients”.
The firm marks itself out from many corporate-focused City firms by its unusually broad range of practice areas. Trainees are given the opportunity to do a variety of seats which include crime, corporate, immigration and clinical negligence practices, among others. The firm was also highly rated in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021/22, with consensus that Kingsley Napley’s training, quality of work and supportiveness are all top-notch.
The firm has a reputation for having a slightly older trainee cohort than the many law firm grad schemes, with it not being unusual to see trainees in their late twenties or early thirties. This is in part down to the fact that many have had previous experience as a paralegal or undertaking work experience at the firm before joining. That, however, should not deter recent graduates from applying for one of the six training contracts on offer every year.
There were some complaints about pay being “below average” with a starting salary of £36,000 that rises to £60,000 on qualification. But this must be put into the perspective of an excellent work/life balance that sees trainees clocking somewhere between 5:30pm and 7:30pm on a normal day.
Kingsley Napley is probably best known for its headline-grabbing litigation exploits. The aforementioned “Wagatha Christie” dispute joins a strong line-up of famous cases past and present that the firm has acted on, including claims against the British government over PPE procurement to defending Jeremy Thorpe in the Old Bailey, an infamous trial that was recently dramatized in the TV series A Very English Scandal.
The firm apparently also has a very inclusive, warm and socially conscious culture. Trainees described a complete absence of hierarchy, with one rookie telling Legal Cheek, “I could speak to anybody in the firm at request, all the way to the managing partner”.
The firm’s responsible business strategy consists of six committees (Business Conduct, Charities and Community, Diversity and Inclusion, Environment, Pro Bono and Wellbeing) made up of lawyers and trainees. These have produced fun firm events such as a Strictly-style dance competition and has yielded firmwide initiatives such as ditching the term BAME with the aim of making the workplace more inclusive and offering paid leave to staff affected by the loss of a pregnancy.
There’s a particular buzz around Kingsley Napley’s recent move to a new seven-storey office on Bonhill Street in Shoreditch. It features everything from “silent libraries” and “collaboration areas” through to a wellbeing suite compromising a fitness studio, a relaxation room and contemplation areas. Snazzy.