Rónán Mullen: King’s Inns Alumnus running in 2016 Seanad Elections, NUI Panel
It is probably an odd thing to say but one of my stand–out memories from the four years I spent studying in King’s Inns is all the coffee breaks we had. That’s not to say the lectures and the class work weren’t interesting. They were. In fact, it was often the intensity and focus of those same lectures that made me look forward to the breaks so much. Those pauses were moments to rest hands tired from writing, to follow up with colleagues about portions of previous lectures missed (yes, it does happen), to plan debates or other extra–curricular activities – and just to enjoy each other’s company.
That last bit is perhaps the most important, looking back. We were a varied bunch that started the Diploma in Law/Diploma in Legal Studies back in Autumn of 1999, though from what I can gather they are just as varied every year. Some were coming straight from college degrees in disciplines other than law, or from law programmes outside the country. Some were civil servants, planning to change career or boosting credentials to hopefully move up the ladder. Some were journalists from various backgrounds (full of scepticism and hard questions). Some were ex–Gardaí or soon to be ex–Gardaí. There is a good tradition of Gardaí switching role from gamekeeper to poacher, if that isn’t a frivolous and politically incorrect way to describe the right to a presumption of innocence and a trial in due course of law. Anyway, we nearly all got on famously.
I was working as a Communications Officer for the Archbishop of Dublin when I started. I enjoyed my job very much and thought highly of those I was working with. But I also realised that it was not a job I could do forever. A good communications officer speaks on behalf of his/her employer – and in the style that the mission of the organisation requires. Sooner or later, I wanted try out my own voice. The mistakes – and the consequences of my mistakes – would be mine alone.
But I was unsure about becoming a Barrister. It was a possibility. But just as importantly in my eyes, it would be an outlet for my curiosity and an intellectual challenge. And even if I never practised at the Bar, it would burnish my CV a bit. Such were my various motivations. Half–formed and instinctive they might have been, but they were enough to justify the considerable–enough fee of about €2,500 a year. So with great support and flexibility from my employers, I started.
I recall the great welcome from Camilla and Marcella – and their friendly interest in our careers to date and in the journey we were undertaking. But I also recall two to three hours of lectures, five nights a week, and sometimes feeling verrry tired. It was no joke, and mid–terms and ends–of–term were welcome.
Year 3 brought an expansion of the gene pool, as graduates from the Diploma (which covered the key areas of law that a college law degree would cover) were joined by law graduates from various faculties for the two–year professional course leading to the award of the BL degree.
Despite all our hard work, there was time for extra–curricular activities. An old friend, Michael Deasy, was in the year ahead of me and we decided to enter the Irish Times debates. We won our way to the United States. Others made even better use of their time. Certain students who became good friends with me became even better friends with each other. Romance was blossoming, not for the first time, in King’s Inns. Two weddings resulted.
I still delight in the friends I made and meeting them in Leinster House, around the Four Courts or elsewhere is always a great pleasure. And they all seem to be getting on very well thankfully.
To be truthful, starting a career in law – whether as a barrister or solicitor – has its hazards. No matter how talented or motivated, it takes some people a long time to make a decent living. There is no obvious formula. The decision to go down and practice is one that people have to make for themselves, after taking advice and time for reflection.
I did practice for a few years, enjoyed the camaraderie and got some lucky breaks. Then I escaped to the relative security of politics. At the time of writing, I am hoping to stay in that business a while longer. The camaraderie may not be as good as in the King’s Inns or the Law Library – I would never deny that. But politics can be interesting enough in its own way.
Note: King’s Inns invite all our alumni who are running for the Seanad to contribute and confirm that we will put up articles from all those who respond.