Home > People > Queen's Counsel > Stephen Knafler QC

Stephen Knafler QC

Call: 1993Silk: 2010
Download CV

Practice Summary

“My favourite silk: his written work is strong, but he’s also very collaborative, he’s got a very teamwork-centred approach”
“He is an amazing academic lawyer and a very persuasive advocate”
“A joy to work with: he is a true lawyer’s lawyer. He has considerable knowledge of the law, and his written and oral skills are excellent. When we work with him it is truly as a team, and I feel my opinions are valued”
“He has great ideas and always gives fresh impetus to a case, and he is so easy to work with”
“He has a very good advocacy style and a real sense of how cases can be presented, which is exactly what you want from a leader”
“Very friendly and creative in approaching complicated problems”
“He’s brilliant fun to work with, passionate about social care law and really good on judicial review”
“His advice was to the point and he was very quick, responsive and open to supplementary questions.”
“He has a brain the size of a planet…a wonderful chap and a wonderful lawyer”
“Fantastic public law silk”
“A very able, powerful silk. His advocacy is impressive”
“An impressive intellect combined with practical clear-mindedness”

(Chambers & Partners) 

Stephen practices across the whole area of public law and also undertakes property, planning and commercial cases.

He advises and represents individuals, public authorities, regulators and commercial operators, and is licensed to accept direct instructions by way of Public Access.

Stephen has appeared as an advocate at all levels of the judicial system, including the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. He has appeared in over 200 reported cases and many high value and/or sensitive mediations.

In addition to his advocacy work, Stephen also advises public authorities, regulators, individuals and commercial operators on policy issues that arise across the whole of public law, in particular in relation to adult and children’s social care, health, housing, education and financial misconduct.

In commercial and property cases with a public law or human rights element, Stephen is often paired with a specialist junior counsel.

Adult and Children’s services

Stephen is the general editor of the Community Care Law Reports and author of Adult Social Care Law (LAG 2016) and Children’s Social Care Law (LAG, 1st edition 2016, 2nd edition 2019).

He is experienced in disputes about assessments and care planning, charging issues, implementing (and challenging) large scale service changes, compliance with consultation and PSED duties, adult and children’s safeguarding, adult care in custody, trafficking, children from abroad, children leaving care, children in custody, serious case reviews, negligence issues, professional conduct, foster care, carers’ allowances, the NHS/local authority divide, ordinary residence, between local authorities and commercial operators about fees and contracts, service closures, mediation, education, delegation, relations between families and service providers.

Stephen offers a fixed fee option on social care opinions – click on the link on the right for more details.


Stephen is experienced in asylum law, human rights cases, family reunion, health cases, PBS, student issues, all aspects of EU law, support, asylum support and benefits (Stephen is an author of Support For Asylum Seekers (LAG 2015), nationality law, deportation and removal, children’s rights, unlawful detention, Dublin disputes, trafficking. He regularly undertakes work for students, entrepreneurs and high net worth individuals.

Commercial property

Stephen is experienced in business lease renewals dilapidations, leasehold enfranchisement, rent reviews, compulsory purchase, rating, residential property, nuisance claims, ownership disputes, trusts. He regularly advises commercial operators, NGOs and public authorities on cases where public law/human rights law intersect with property law.

Health and Mental Health

Stephen is experienced in disputes over the provision of expensive or unusual treatment, contract issues, persons from abroad, NHS organisation and partnerships, healthcare in custodial settings, detention, discharge and after-care, NHS Continuing Healthcare (for adults and also children), hospital and other service closures, regulatory issues, professional conduct.


Stephen is experienced in disputes over financial services provision, contractual and public law issues between public commissioners and private providers, procurement issues, restraint of trade and general contract issues in particular where commercial issues intersect with public law and human rights.


Stephen is experienced in housing strategy including housing allocation schemes, homelessness cases, housing and persons from abroad, housing benefit issues, possession proceedings, large scale housing development projects, planning issues, licensing issues, disrepair (Stephen wrote several disrepair and building textbooks when a junior counsel), social landlords, trespass and protests, nuisance claims.


Stephen has worked for many years in the areas of housing benefit, supported housing, income support and other social security benefits, council tax, benefits for disabled people, PIP, child support, ESA, universal credit.

Court of Protection

Stephen was a regular in the COP as junior counsel and is experienced in cases involving deprivation of liberty, best interests, the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, the overlap with community care and mental health, children lacking capacity, the functions of deputies.

General Local Authority

Stephen advises regularly about HMO licensing, local authority decision-making, commercial and other powers, ethical issues, investment and charging issues, problems with the LGO or auditors, education issues, compulsory purchase, governance, rating and valuation, trespass and protests, elections, finance, responsibility disputes, disputes with commercial providers, service users and other public bodies.

General public law

In addition to the above, Stephen advises and appears in cases involving professional conduct (in particular involving barristers, solicitors and social/care workers), human rights and civil liberties (in this jurisdiction and abroad), public funding and costs issues and equality issues. He enjoys a new challenge!

What the Judges say:

  •  “submissions of high quality” TM (Kenya) v SSHD [2019] EWCA Civ 784
  •  “economy and clarity of submissions” R (ERA) v Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [2019] EWHC 1249 Admin
    “very high quality oral submissions” R (Ahsan) v SSHD [2017] EWCA Civ 2009
  • “elegant and cogent submissions” R (SG) v SHD [2016] EWHC 2639 Admin
  • “elegant and persuasive submissions” Birmingham CC v Sec [2016] EWCA Civ 1211
  • “impressive arguments” R (Walford) v Worcestershire CC [2015] EWCA Civ 22
  • “attractive submissions” R (Hysaj) v SSHD [2014] EWCA Civ 1633
  • “submissions well made” R (Hillsden) v Epping Forest DC [2015] EWHC Admin 98
  • “carefully crafted submissions” R (Fitzroy George) v SSHD [2014] UKSC 28, [2014] 1 WLR 1843
  • “powerful submissions” R (Kaziu) v SSHD [2014] 4 All ER 133
  • “clear and cogent submissions” AA (Afghanistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWCA Civ 1625
  • “clear and forceful submissions of the highest quality” AH (Afghanistan) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2011] EWCA Civ 1284
  • “excellent assistance” John Reeves (Listing Officer) v Randy Northrop [2013] EWCA Civ 362


MA (Cantab)

QC 2010. Former solicitor to 1993. Admitted 1988.


  • “He has a brain the size of a planet…a wonderful chap and a wonderful lawyer”
  • “Fantastic public law silk”
  • “Supremely intelligent and pursues cases with diligence and skill. Brilliant on his feet”
  • “A very able, powerful silk. His advocacy is impressive”
  • “An impressive intellect combined with practical clear-mindedness”
  • “He makes no-nonsense, concise arguments for claimants and defendants”
  • “He is a very measured and pragmatic barrister”
  • “An exceptionally bright and intuitive lawyer who comes out with new points nobody’s seen before”
  • “He is really good on big public law issues. He is able to get on top of the issues exceptionally quickly”
  • “One of the finest lawyers out there. He’s extremely able, skilful and creative. He’s both exceptionally good on paper and exceptionally good on his feet”
  • “He gets a ten out of ten for his academic and intellectual ability. He can always see all sides of the argument”
  • “brilliant and highly effective advocate” who is “able to cut through to the essential issues of a case and get the court to listen to him”
  • “He is well loved by the judiciary”
  • “I really like working with him. He is very engaged, works hard and is very insightful”
  • “He has an unflappable manner in court. I see him being put on the spot and he always deals with it very well, never snatching at an answer and then getting it wrong”
  • “Brings innovative and persuasive arguments”
  • “He gives composed and thoughtful addresses to the court, and has good tactical sense”
  • “Hard-working, intelligent and a good opponent”
  • “He is a very nice person to work with and is very hands-on from an early stage” “He is very clear-headed, determined and always very collaborative, whilst also knowing that it’s up to him to run the case” 
  • “He is eager to get everyone involved in the case and willing to listen to everybody’s arguments”
  • Outside court, Knafler is “very client-friendly, very approachable and accessible” and proves “immaculate in his preparation for conferences or advices”
  • “A lawyer who grasps the essential elements and puts them across to the Bench in simple terms, he is loved by judges”
  • “is tremendously intelligent, and has the ability to get on top of complex cases really quickly”
  • “sources note his exceptional cross-examination skills and describe him as “approachable, calm and reassuring”
  • “an “attractive advocate” with a “very calm and questioning approach”
  • “he just devours information and seizes on the killer points immediately, making his speed of turnaround unmatched”
  • “a brilliant advocate who works extremely hard and to a very demanding standard”
  • “a deep thinker and a highly creative lawyer”
  • “quick and efficient”
  • “an absolutely fantastic advocate”
  • with “fantastic advocacy, which hinges on his sheer ability to put a point across clearly”
  • “legally rigorous but able to put his cases in a moderate, non-inflammatory way”
  • “His “helpful and reasonable approach” to working with others has won him a lot of friends”

Fixed Fees in Social Care Cases

Sometimes, public bodies, commercial operators and private individuals simply want a speedy, short, no frills opinion on the meaning/effect of social care legislation or guidance and its application and on relatively straight-forward issues such as ordinary residence and charging. To meet that need in a cost-effective manner Stephen Knafler QC provides fixed fee opinions in social care cases as follows:

  • 1 or 2 questions with no more than 10 pages of papers: £350 plus VAT
  • 1 or 2 questions with no more than 50 pages of papers: £500 plus VAT
  • 3 to 5 questions with no more than 10 pages of papers: £500 plus VAT
  • 3 to 5 questions with no more than 100 pages of papers: £750 plus VAT

Exceptionally, the difficulty of the issue(s) raised may result in a decision that the case cannot be dealt with on this fixed fee basis and instead a different fixed quote will be given.


Adult Social Care (LAG, 2016)

General editor of the Community Care Law Reports (LAG)

Support for Asylum Seekers (LAG) 2001 (1st edition), 2004 (2nd edition) and 2009 (3rd edition)

Contributor to De Smith, Woolf and Jowell: Judicial Review of Administrative Action (Sweet and Maxwell, 1996)

Author of Remedies for Disrepair and other Building Defects (Sweet and Maxwell, 1996)

Co-author of Disrepair: Tenants’ Rights (LAG, 3rd edition, 1999)

Articles in Legal Action and Solicitors’ Journal

Seminars for, inter alia, Legal Action Group, Housing Law Practitioners’ Association, judicial organisations, Community groups, Central Law Training and Public Law Project.


Click the icon next to any member to add their profile to this portfolio.
Member Call/Silk CV Email Print
icon-accordion-chevron icon-arrow-left icon-arrow-right icon-chevron-down icon-chevron-left icon-cross icon-download icon-letter icon-linked-in icon-phone-outline icon-phone icon-search icon-search icon-select-chevron icon-top-right-corner icon-twitter