Kingsley Napley LLP
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University: University of Southampton
Year of qualification: September 2014
Department: Dispute resolution
What attracted you to a career in law?
Having studied philosophy and not being sure what to do next, I came to law quite late. I was working in sales after university and realised that one of the elements that I liked best was looking at the legal documents. It got me thinking, and I started to research what lawyers do every day.
Why solicitor not barrister?
Some of my first work experience was in a barristers’ chambers, so I was considering it, but I went on to counterbalance that with work experience in various solicitors’ firms. The more I found out about the difference between the roles, the more I realised that the role of a solicitor suited me better. I wanted to be involved in cases from start to finish, have long-term client relationships, and have overall case management and control. That all appealed to me.
How did you decide which firms to apply to?
I did a lot of research using the legal directories, websites and all the resources that are out there to tell you what different firms and practice areas are like. That was very much the starting point for me. I also spoke to people that I’d met during my work experience, most of whom went out of their way to find time to chat or meet for a coffee. You have to make use of the people that you know to ask for help and information. For example, although I didn’t do a vacation scheme at Kingsley Napley, I had done my research and heard lots of good things anecdotally. I had also spent time chatting with a lawyer who worked here.
Which departments did you train in?
I started as a trainee in September 2012. My first seat was in private client, second in clinical negligence, third in dispute resolution, and fourth in regulatory and professional discipline.
Please discuss a specific deal/case that you were involved with, outlining your role in the matter.
In dispute resolution, I worked on a really interesting contested will case. Our client was challenging his great-aunt’s will, which had left everything to a cousin and which our client considered to be suspicious. It was a very valuable estate, including assets in multiple jurisdictions; there were also some great characters involved! The case featured injunctions to stop people dissipating assets and we investigated witness accounts using Facebook – it was all very exciting. I was working with just a partner and an associate, so it was a lot of work, but I felt very useful. My role included drafting court documents, rushing off to court to lodge applications, taking witness statements – I was highly involved with the key elements of the case and it was great experience. It also helped me decide where I wanted to qualify.
How does the qualification process work at the firm?
In the spring of the year you’re due to qualify, all the department heads get together to look at their recruitment needs for later that year. They have a good idea by then of where trainees’ potential interests lie. They then announce which jobs are available for September and trainees have a couple of weeks to apply, usually by submitting a written application. There is then an interview, the structure of which varies between departments.
What do you wish you’d known about being a trainee before you started that you now do?
I had no particular expectations, but I suppose that I didn’t appreciate that each time you change seats, you feel like you are starting a new job – despite feeling very much a part of the firm! It can be disconcerting; all departments do things slightly differently and it’s a new area of law, so you feel that you are starting from scratch. With hindsight, my advice is to get to know as many different people from throughout the firm as early as possible, especially those in a seat you know you have coming up. And keep the faith, because all that knowledge is going in at some level!
Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?
Our department deals with general dispute resolution, which is a broad umbrella covering many different aspects of civil litigation. As a junior lawyer you are encouraged to work with all of the partners and to get involved in all of the different areas we cover, but many of the cases I work on concern contested wills, trusts and probate, with some commercial litigation as well. On a normal day, I’ll be: corresponding by email with opponents, the court or clients: taking calls and having meetings with clients or counsel; drafting applications and witness statements; and looking at and analysing documents. Once a month or so I’ll go to court for a hearing. Those are the most common tasks and as you can see, it’s a very mixed bag.
What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?
The variety of work is the best bit – it keeps things interesting. Although each case involves similar legal principles, every client and set of circumstances is different. I also really like the teamwork – every day, you’re talking to and working with other fee-earners, partners, counsel and experts. It’s great to bounce ideas off people and feel that you’re adding value to a common cause.
The downside to the variety is that it can make things unpredictable. You can have a plan for your day and then something unexpected comes in that you have to adapt to. On the one hand, that’s exciting, and on the other, it would be nice to be able to plan a bit more!
How involved are you with business development (BD) and promoting the firm?
We are all very involved with marketing, BD and networking – it is a big part of our day-to-day work. Not a week goes by without at least one event, which might include lunches, evening receptions, seminars or talks. We go to lots of things arranged by barristers’ chambers and other firms, as well as building links with other junior professionals.
What makes your firm stand out from the rest?
I think it is how involved you are within the firm as a trainee and junior lawyer. As a trainee you share an office with a partner or senior lawyer, gaining a huge amount of experience. You are also part of a small trainee intake – there were just five of us in my year – and most departments have only one trainee at a time (and not more than two). You are an integral and valued member of the team for the time that you’re there and given great work as well as great support.
What advice do you have for budding solicitors who are contemplating a career in law?
They would be well advised to do a lot of research and preparation. Work experience is key – choosing a career path is such a big decision, and while not irreversible, training and studying is a big commitment so embark on that with a good idea of what it’s going to be like when you qualify. Talk to those already in the profession, use all available resources, sit in a courtroom – all these things give you a flavour of what the profession is like and will help you to decide where your interests and skills lie.
What’re you reading at the moment?
David Attenborough’s autobiography Life on Air, for the second time! I’m a huge fan and his story is incredibly interesting and inspiring.
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