Just A Minute: Ciaran O’Hare

Ciaran O'Hare
Ciaran O’Hare

This week Ciaran O’Hare of McIvor Farrell Solicitors in Belfast speaks to Irish Legal News for our regular Just A Minute feature.

ILN: What has been your best experience as a lawyer?

My best experience as a lawyer is actually happening right now! I am the instructing solicitor in the McCord Brexit Challenge. I believe that it is a privilege to be dealing with this case, as it is in my view the most important constitutional case to come before the courts in many years.

This case has consumed most of my time since proceedings were issued in the summer. I attended London High Court last week in respect of performing a watching brief in relation to the similar cases currently before the Divisional Court of England & Wales. It was an incredible experience to be involved in these proceedings in London and listen to the arguments being made in front of the Divisional Court which consisted of the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales. I also met Lord Pannick QC and he autographed a copy of one of his books that I recently received as a gift. It was a pleasure to meet him, as he is one of the best advocates in the UK.

ILN: What has been your worst experience as a lawyer?

One of my worst experiences as a lawyer was when I attended before a family court in relation to contact proceedings that I had filed on behalf of my client. As soon as I mentioned the case, the judge asked me if I was sure that I had lodged the proper proceedings. When I responded saying yes, the judge then asked for a show of hands in relation to what proceedings I should have taken. Unanimously, all of the lawyers in the court stated that I should have issued Prohibited Steps proceedings and the application was struck out. It was very embarrassing having to get up and leave the court after that.

ILN: Why did you choose the law?

I chose law because I always excelled at English based subjects at school and also because I wanted to do something challenging. I think that being a lawyer is a challenge on a daily basis. In my experience, no two days are the same and I enjoy this aspect of the job. I have always enjoyed music and drama and therefore advocacy and the court side of being a lawyer always appealed to me.

ILN: Who or what has been the greatest professional influence in your life?

I would say that my master would be one of my greatest professional influences.We get on very well and we try to catch up now and again. My master taught me a lot throughout my apprenticeship. I believe that I had a better apprenticeship than most. I was involved in everything, civil and criminal. I was sent everywhere around the country and it was very much a hands-on approach. He kept me on as a solicitor for a time after my apprenticeship and again this was a fantastic opportunity for me, at a time when it was very difficult to get a newly qualified position anywhere. I am forever grateful to my master.

I would also say that the Senior Counsel involved in the McCord Brexit challenge is a great professional influence. In my view, he is a remarkable advocate and I hope someday to be as wise and knowledgeable as he is.

ILN: What advice would you give to anyone considering a career in the law?

I would advise that general practice is a very tough environment and you have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. A former colleague once said to me that it is a job in which you have to “roll with the punches”. However, what I would say is that I personally would not be satisfied with a mundane post. I like the fact that there are challenges and I like the variation. I would say that it can be rewarding. I would also advise that the public perception that lawyers make a lot of money is a fallacy. There is of course a ladder and if you can get up it there is potential but even then, there are lot of other jobs that pay well and are arguably a lot easier. I would say that it is a matter for the individual to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves. I would also advise as final note that general practice is seldom 9-5.

ILN: What would you want to be if you were not a lawyer?

I love the outdoors and I grew up in a farming community. If I owned ground, (and was entitled to the single farm payment) I would love to be a farmer. I think it’s a very healthy way of life and enjoyable.

ILN: How do you relax after work?

I live in the Mourne mountains and if I’m not on-call to the police station and I don’t have any domestic duties around the house then I like to go for walks up into the mountains. Moreover, I’ve been that busy lately that I have hardly seen my wife. We just got married on St Patrick’s day past and she is expecting with our first. These days we treasure any free time that I get and we try to make the most of it.

ILN: What is your favourite holiday destination and why?

My favourite holiday destination is to Limoges in France. I have an Aunt and Uncle that live in the countryside there. I love the food, wine and scenery. It’s very peaceful and people take things much easier there. Everywhere closes for lunch, most places taking two hours. As a lawyer in Belfast you are lucky to get lunch at all!

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