News Stories

Alumni Stories: 08 December 2023

Alumni Story – Diane Sutton speaks to Carol Walls, Emma Walls and Aoife McCann

Alumni Story – Diane Sutton speaks to Carol Walls, Emma Walls and Aoife McCann


This year, for the first time in the history of King’s Inns, three sisters graduated from the Degree of Barrister–at–Law at the same time.  

Carol Walls, Emma Walls, and Aoife McCann first completed the two–year Diploma in Legal Studies, followed by the full time BL course. All three hold senior positions in the corporate sector and are testament that it is achievable to combine a busy work and family life with further studies – something they are keen to highlight to anyone considering taking the plunge. 


The first to consider studying at King’s Inns, Emma wished to expand her knowledge and skill set in the area of law.  Commercial & Communications Director at Glenisk for the last 15 years, Emma is also Director at Love Irish Food and member of Bord Bia’s Brand Forum Steering Committee.  She began her career at Wilson Hartnell PR and worked for a time as an independent communications consultant.  

Emma says: “If you’re coming to this profession later, having lived a life, you can make certain assumptions about what the law is. I thought I knew about how contract law worked for example, how public liability law worked, but I started to realise in the years prior to starting [the course] I didn’t understand the legal principles behind them. That was a big driving force for me.’’

“That was my motivation to find out: – what is the law, what does it say and how does it work. The law is much more nuanced and complex and appropriate for living, for businesses, and for transactions.” 

Emma’s sisters, Aoife and Carol decided to follow suit. Aoife, also based in Glenisk, is the Head of Sales, Strategic Relationships and Communications. She previously worked in various senior roles in Retail and in Public Relations and also has an entrepreneurial background, having founded and sold a food business.   

Carol has been Lead Business Analyst, Innovation and Change, for over twenty years at Irish Life. Part and parcel of her role is looking to expand her focus and skillset, one of her reasons for enrolling in the course.    

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Aoife, Emma, and Carol pictured at their Call to the Bar, Trinity 2023.
Image: Aidan Crawley Photography


Diploma in Legal Studies 

Aoife, Emma, and Carol commenced the Diploma in Legal Studies together in 2020. They say the volume, pace, and investment of time was initially intimidating; trying to make each milestone, getting through exams and assignments, facing personal challenges along the way. All were working full–time and raising a family. With the subject matter new to them, Carol says the learning curve was steep, but she is keen to convey it was absolutely worth it, and has high praise for Diploma Coordinator Ciaran Patton’s guidance:   

“Ciaran was superb, he coaxed us through each stage, managing the psychological side – people’s fear and self–sabotage. As the course progressed, the pieces came together – like a slot machine, it all just lined up”.  

Degree of Barrister–at–Law 

Reflecting on their experience since their Call earlier this year, they now realise the Degree of Barrister–at–Law course was their reward for the Diploma. By that they mean with the law groundwork done, and familiar with lecture and tutorial formats, the BL became tremendous fun – an important aspect they want to convey. Interesting and engaging, each day they knew more than they did before. They actively participated in student life, even singing in the Christmas Carol service (quipping if you heard them singing in the car, you’d be surprised they put themselves forward). 

Their maturity and experience in terms of business did have advantages, Aoife feels: – “not being afraid to speak up, ask lots of questions, test propositions, and challenge ideas. You are less inclined to waste time and keener to extract every benefit and learnings you can.”  

She feels strongly that nothing is wasted in the teaching on the BL; every topic is intense and well designed – “it is just what you need to know, in the way you need to know it, at the time you need to know it.” The mock trials, towards the end of the legal year, were a particular highlight – everything they had learnt being displayed in front of a High Court Judge, “everything clicking and coming together in that moment”.  

Carol says, “I think people may look at the study of the law and think that it is about the qualification at the end, but it absolutely isn’t, it’s the learnings along the way and how they knit into your wider understanding of the world”.  

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Carol, Aoife, and Emma pictured in the King’s Inns Dining Hall.


Although there was a lot of sacrifice (free time, personal plans, sleep, cooking, to name a few) Aoife, Emma, and Carol were immersed in the process and able to support each other, living in close proximity. Aoife says “we talked about the course and what we learned incessantly, even when we were sitting with a glass of wine at the weekend. Our families were sick to death of listening to us talk about the law! Ultimately, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice because the course is interesting and rewarding – particularly as concepts begin to click”. She is inspired not only by her sisters but also by her classmates, many of whom overcame challenges along the way.  


Their experiences combined, do they have advice for current students, or anyone considering studying at King’s Inns? They say listen to the lecturers every step of the way – “everything proved true in the end”. They want to assure students that those initial exercises where you might feel out of your comfort zone will make sense and assist you to ‘form and storm’ as a group. Standalone topics will all knit together eventually and become easier. 

Lean on classmate collegiality, it will be a big help. Engage in the practical exercises, and don’t fret about anything that can go wrong – all part of the learning process. And finally…. “Generations have come before you on this course; the system works”. 

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Carol, Emma, and Aoife pictured at the 2023 “In Plain Sight” unveiling of Frances Moran SC portrait.


Given they are not currently at the Bar of Ireland, a traditional route for many, or practising as in–house lawyers, I wondered how their new knowledge and skills can be applied in their current roles. All confirm they see multiple benefits, with lots of practical applicability outside the law.  

Emma has found it has added structure to her thinking and marketing presentation, with the advocacy and negotiation pieces being hugely helpful. She says the Degree of Barrister–at–Law has taught her that advocacy is not necessarily solely adversarial, the skills in terms of persuasion are “powerful and directly applicable to my job”. With a new clarity of thought “you become ruthless at stripping away extraneous information and focusing on what’s relevant. That’s a hugely useful discipline in any job”.  

Carol says that as well as effective persuasion, the course has taught her in an IT capacity to quietly and carefully assess the situation despite the circumstances, extracting only the salient points. She says her new–found negotiation and advocacy skills have been invaluable in every interpersonal setting. The course has provided context and a deeper understanding of the relevance and practical application of the law to the insurance industry – laws relating to GDPR, Consumer Protection, Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism to name but a few. Immersion in contract, employment, and company law brought a broader, more rounded perspective to her work.  

Aoife’s function is predominantly about commercial relationships, and she has found the negotiation skills particularly useful; as with Carol says she can quickly see through extraneous matter to get to the heart of issues. “Negotiation, advocacy, contracts, employment law, etc. are all extremely relevant to my work and to many career paths. It’s not an inexpensive course of study to undertake, but I think the value transcends any monetary payback in terms of work”.  


With their Call still fresh, Carol Aoife and Emma confirm they haven’t launched into any new hobbies just yet but are instead enjoying their free time and a return to usual family routines. Carol is back pitch side, attending her children’s GAA matches. [There is some joking at this point in the interview that they should have invented an exciting hobby, like paragliding].  More study may be on the horizon, but for now, it’s time to reset and restore.