Here we present career profiles from our Undergraduate BCL degree programme
My law degree has been of huge assistance to me throughout my career as a European lawyer in Brussels.
As a student, I developed a keen interest in European law. With the support of the UCC Law Department, I obtained a place at the College of Europe, Bruges to study for a master’s degree in European law. I then worked in Brussels for an international law firm which subsequently trained me to become an English solicitor. I worked as a trainee solicitor in London and Paris before returning to Brussels to undertake a traineeship at the European Commission.
I have been working as a European lawyer in Brussels since 2003. I regularly act in cases before the European Courts. I specialise in European sports and media law and have been involved in some of the leading cases affecting these sectors.
In 2012, I set up my own legal practice in Brussels. This decision also derives from my experience in UCC when I set up the college newspaper with a fellow student. I learnt then to enjoy the challenge of setting up a new organisation, the importance of advocacy, and to stand by my convictions. This practical experience together with my academic training at UCC have been, therefore, invaluable to my European law practice.
I grew up and attended High School in Washington DC. My strong family connections to Cork led me to consider attending UCC and when I discovered that I was able to study law straight away (instead of doing a four-year bachelor beforehand as I would have to in the US), I made up my mind that UCC was where I wanted to go.
UCC gave me a fantastic academic base to pursue my future career as well as allowing me the opportunity to get involved in extra-curricular activities, such as the Law Review. During my time studying Law I made amazing friends, as well as meeting my fiancé!
I’m now the Westminster Office Manager for a Conservative Member of Parliament. My law degree was an essential element in my ability to secure for my current job, in fact they advertised for someone with a legal background! I help scrutinize legislation, as well as write amendments for bills. My work also necessitates liaising with the Home Affairs Select Committee and assisting on inquiries. In addition to this I work with Irish Embassy Officials and assemble the cross-party brief on Irish Media and Political Economy, which is issued to select MPs on a bi-weekly basis.
Building on the strong academic foundations laid at UCC, I am also pursuing my LLM with the University of London International Programme. This is designed to be undertaken by professional students who are working and studying at the same time.
Domhnall Ó Catháin
Domhnall Ó Catháin
Domhnall is currently an associate with Lesnevich & Marzano-Lesnevich, LLC, and a member of the board of the Irish American Bar AssociationNew York(IABANY), the Irish American Bar Association oNew Jerseyand the Brehon Law Society of New York. He has qualified for both theNew Yorkand New Jersey State Bars as well as the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
“Of course, I did not know it at the time, but my career was decided in 1998 in the Boole basement where our lecturer, with attention and motivation, opened my eyes to the world of personal injury law. I bring that education to my practice as an attorney in New York and New Jersey every day.”
Domhnall Ó Catháin graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree from UCC in 2000. Following graduation, he spent several years working in the construction industry in both Ireland and the U.S.A. In 2004, he returned to his legal studies and graduated with a LLM in International Business and Trade Law from Fordham Law School in 2005 and in 2010 from Rutgers University School of Law, Newark, Foreign Lawyers Programme with a Juris Doctorate. From 2005 he worked as an associate with Kopff, Nardelli and Dopf, LLP where his emphasis was on pre-trial preparation, pre-trial discovery and depositions for personal injury litigation.
“Having studied law at UCC and in American law programmes, I know that UCC law graduates excel when they enter postgraduate law programmes in theUSA.”
Liam graduated from the BCL class of 1997 and immediately took a position as an intern with the Human Rights Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs. After returning to UCC to complete an LLM in 1998/1999, Liam went to work for the Law Reform Commission as a Legal Researcher. From there he worked as Research and Policy Officer with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and as Senior Legislation and Policy Review Officer with the Irish Human Rights Commission, a position he held for four years. Most recently, Liam has worked as the Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) since November 2007. IPRT is Ireland’s leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for progressive reform of the Irish penal system, based on respect for human rights and the principle that imprisonment should be used only as a sanction of last resort. In recent years, Liam has also combined his work with occasional lecturing work at UCD and at TCD and served on the board of the Children’s Rights Alliance from 2008 to 2011.
Sonya Donnelly graduated from U.C.C with an Honours BCL in 2005 and completed her LLM in Criminal Justice in 2006. After completing her Barrister At Law degree, where she was the holder of the McCarthy Bursary, she spent three years practicing criminal law and lecturing in a variety of Dublin colleges. She has just co-written a legal text with Round Hall called “The Devil’s Handbook”, which is a practical and concise guidebook to practicing as a junior barrister, and is now working as a programme lawyer with Irish Rule of Law International in Lilongwe running an access to justice project focusing on pre-trial detention in Malawi.
She first gained an interest in criminal law through her undergraduate studies with Professor Caroline Fennell and it was through the clinical component of her LLM she first experienced the inadequacy of legal service availability for those who cannot afford it, which has driven her to working with those most in need throughout her career.
Her work in Malawi involves providing practical assistance to the pre-trial detainees through the drafting, processing and review of bail applications, file progression and representation in court as approximately 90% of detainees have no access to legal advice. She also helps to promote restorative justice practices, specifically a Diversion programme within the Lilongwe police station due to the systemic over crowding within the prison system, and in the coming months will be holding prison courts to reduce the costs of transferring prisoners and providing training to prosecution & legal aid employees on best practice in relevant areas.
"I had always harboured an ambition to be a barrister. When it came to choosing where to study, UCC was the obvious choice because of its reputation for legal scholarship and the friendly atmosphere it fosters among its students.
One of the key aspects of the BCL was its focus on analysing the theoretical framework underpinning the law. The academic emphasis was not only on what the law is, but also on the historical and contextual reasons for it being so. This comprehensive approach allowed me to develop the necessary critical and analytical skills to eventually go on to engage with the law in a more focused field of study on the LLM programme at the London School of Economics.
The legal and technical skills which I'd acquired at UCC proved essential for the prolonged focus and critical thinking required for sitting the usual set exams while simultaneously writing a dissertation and a long essay.
For me personally, one of the most valuable aspects of the BCL proved to be the importance placed on moot court, both in the moot court module in final year, and also in the time dedicated by the lecturers to judging and helping prepare the moot competitions run by the UCC Law Society. These competitions allowed me to hone my advocacy and legal skills by arguing substantive law in a practical setting with other students, academics and judges. These competitions would ultimately lead me to my current career, since it was through representing UCC at the Holland and Knight Intercollegiate Moot Court final that I won an internship to the London office of Mayer Brown International LLP.
When I finished my LLM in 2010, I undertook the Legal Practice Course in the UK and began a training contract with Mayer Brown. The contrast with my original career ambitions could not have been more different- I went from wanting to practice at the Irish bar, to working in an international corporate law firm. This is a classic example of how the comprehensive approach to the law, as taught on the BCL at UCC, gives the student a grounding which prepares them for a vast variety of careers, both at home and abroad, both within the law and elsewhere. I think employers recognise the quality and ability of law graduates (and UCC law graduates in particular), in terms of practical legal skill, social abilities and their capacity to work effectively with others as part of a team.
I credit the academic and social experiences which I gained while at UCC, both in the lecture hall and at the Law Society debates and socials, for giving me the confidence and acuity to pursue a career which is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure."
"I pursued my law degree in UCC, knowing I was interested in law, but not knowing what I wanted to get out of it. In second year I took human rights law and realised this was the area that appealed to me most. After graduating from UCC, I immediately went on to complete an LLM in Queen's University Belfast in International Human Rights Law. At this time, I was fairly certain that I didn't want to be a practicing lawyer and looked around for experience in human rights organisations and in places like the Law Reform Commission. Having completed two unpaid internships in London, I was lucky enough to being a year long internship in the human rights unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs."
Here I got the chance to work directly in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva which is unbelievably valuable experience to have under your belt.However, I did realise the drawbacks to not having a 'practical' qualification, especially when many of my friends were completing apprenticeships at top firms. So I then decided to sit the New York Bar exams in February 2010. Luckily I passed and from then on I had my sites on New York. However, while trawling job sites and legal blogs, I stumbled upon a fantastic opportunity at Google. Fast forward multiple interviews, one year and 3 months later and I am now working on policy and legal support for YouTube, based in Google HQ in Dublin. The job is hugely energetic, fast-paced, challenging and stimulating. Working in a multinational corporation, I get experience here that I know I would never get in a law firm. For instance, travelling to California to the YouTube HQ and across Europe to meet with our lawyers. For me, this is the perfect position at this stage of my career and I have no doubt that it will open doors for me or lead me on to experiences in the future."
Olivia studied law in University College Cork (UCC) and received her BCL in 1996. Thereafter, she completed the Higher Diploma in Business and Financial Information Systems in 1997 also in UCC. Olivia qualified as an Associate Member of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and the Irish Taxation Institute while working with Arthur Anderson from 1997 - 2001. She earned her MBA in General Management from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2009. Olivia has worked with Kerry Group for nearly 10 years in a variety of finance and commercial roles in both Ireland and the US.
Olivia has said “my law degree helped lay a strong foundation of important skills which have provided me with a terrific basis on which to build my career. The verbal reasoning, critical thinking, interpretative & communication skills acquired as part of a law degree are invaluable in international business and management and have been influential both in my further studies and in my career growth and development”.