University: King’s College London
Year of qualification: 2018
Department: Criminal litigation
The qualification process at Kingsley Napley is actually quite rigorous! A list of the available NQ jobs is released to the trainees around May. The trainees then have to submit an application pack to the department, or departments, that they want to qualify into.
The application pack has to include a whole range of documents, including a CV, cover letter, examples of the work you have done over your training contract and the blogs you have produced for the website. You then have an assessment for the NQ role, which usually involves a written test and a panel interview with some of the partners in that department. From start to finish, the whole process takes around two months.
I wish I had told myself not to waste time worrying about minor mistakes; just learn from them and move on. I’ve found most lawyers are too busy to dwell on what goes wrong, so provided that you do your best to not make the same mistake again, it really shouldn’t matter.
I would also say that when you are training, people would prefer that you ask questions when it is your first time doing something, even if they seem really busy. It can be intimidating to be put on a case with a partner who is the best in their field, but most people remember what it was like to be a trainee so they expect you to ask lots of questions.
The criminal litigation team at Kingsley Napley has a whole range of expertise, including general crime, white collar crime, business and financial crime, and international crime and extradition.
I know it is cliché but there really is no typical day in the criminal department! I often find that I start the day with a to-do list that ends up completely changing depending on what I’m working on. For example, one day you could be at the police station, advising a client that’s been accused of sexual assault. Those can be very emotional, hands-on days, and you won’t do very much reading or writing. The next day, you might be drafting a long letter of representations, which involves reviewing some very complex financial documents for a high-profile businessperson in a white-collar crime case.
There is an emphasis in the criminal department on NQs continuing to get experience with all sorts of cases and not specialising too soon. This means you get the chance to work with a range of fee earners and every day is different.
As I’ve only been qualified since September 2018, I’m still exploring what area of criminal law I enjoy most. That said, so far, I have really enjoyed working on general crime cases – particularly with youths – and cases with an international element.
I love the ‘human’ element of criminal law. When clients come to meet a criminal solicitor, they are usually in an extremely stressful and distressing situation. It is hugely rewarding to be able to provide some comfort by advising them on how to resolve the legal aspect of their problem.
The least enjoyable bit for me is that it can be quite hard to switch off from work; it can be difficult not to continue to think about clients and their cases when you go home at the end of the day.
When I look at the lawyers around me which I would consider ‘successful’, they are the ones who genuinely enjoy their job and are really passionate about what they do.
I feel reluctant to be prescriptive and say that X, Y and Z skills are what make you a ‘successful’ lawyer, because I don’t believe there are any set skills that every lawyer must have. I think lots of people are deterred from applying for law in the first place as they think that they need to be a certain type of person or speak and act in a certain way. I believe that anyone can be a successful lawyer; it is just about finding the area that suits you!
Depending on the area you want to go into certain skills and attributes may make you more suited to area of law over another. If you enjoy drafting contracts and are commercially minded, then maybe a job in corporate law is for you; however, if you have a particular talent for dealing with people in difficult situations, then you might be more suited for a career in family law for example. Working at Kingsley Napley has taught me that everyone develops their own style of working and has different things that they are particularly good at.
There is a common-sense approach to work in the department – if there is work to be done there is an expectation that you stay and do it. However, there is no point staying if you are finished for the day.
If one of your cases is at trial or you are working on a big project with a tight deadline, then the hours can be long. However, you will usually be on a team and everyone will be working equally hard. It’s not the case that the partners just delegate the work and go home early. There is very much a sense that we’re all in this together.
When it’s not a really busy time, the work-life balance is great.
Kingsley Napley has lots of different sports teams, groups, networks and committees. Whatever what you are interested in or whatever you think is important, there is probably a group for you!
The firm has a real focus on diversity and inclusion, and we have a committee which has various sub-groups, including social mobility, LGBTQ+, BAME, working families and faith. We also have football, touch rugby and netball teams, as well as yoga, meditation and pilates classes which are run in the firm. Our charities team runs various events throughout the year to raise money for the firm’s charities, including the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ event which was held last year and The Three Peaks Challenge completed by trainees.
We always have a lot going on to celebrate International Women’s Day, with a committee producing a blog series, podcasts and running an event in the office on the day itself. Over half of the partnership at Kingsley Napley is female, which makes us quite unique and it is something the firm is definitely very proud of.
The criminal team regularly collaborate with other teams on cases, particularly our public law, regulatory, dispute resolution and employment teams.
Most of our clients’ legal problems do not exist in isolation, so if someone is facing a police investigation, this may also have an impact on their employment, immigration status or their reputation. We can deal with a complex set of issues all under the one roof at Kingsley Napley, which can make us a bit of a one-stop shop for individuals who need legal advice.
When you’re a trainee, you have the luxury of getting to know people from other teams during your different seats, which allows you to develop connections throughout the firm. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and speak to someone from a different department for some formal or informal advice.
Friendly, non-hierarchal and collaborative.
I think the biggest opportunity for me was being asked to be part of the group running the firm’s ‘Legal Apprentice’ competition, which we launched this year. It is a competition for Year 12 (or equivalent) students across the UK, which is designed to give students some first-hand experience of what it is like to be a solicitor.
There is a core group of associates, partners and members of the marketing team who have been working on the project for around 18 months. It has been a lot of hard work, but it is really incredible to see how many schools have taken part!
We have had to come up with various tasks which test the students on the different skills that solicitors use every day. Each team also gets a ‘mentor’ from the firm who helps to guide them through the competition and answer any of their questions about a career in law. The top teams will be invited to our grand final in London and will be in with the chance of actually winning an apprenticeship at the firm – which is extremely exciting.
I hope that the competition will give students an idea of what solicitors actually do and give them the confidence to think that it is a career path they are capable of pursuing. It would be a huge achievement if even one or two students are inspired to go into law that never believed it was accessible to them before.
I’ve just finished Dress your Family in Corduroy And Denim by David Sedaris. I highly recommend it!