'Graduates will need good career guidance more than before': Mary O'Rourke QC
King’s alumna and Somerset House donor Mary O’Rourke QC (Law, 1980) is one of the country’s most respected medical law barristers, having handled some of the highest-profile cases of this type in recent years.
Here O’Rourke tells us about her time at King’s and shares her thoughts on the plight of new law graduates.
You did both your first degree and your postgraduate studies at King's. Why did you choose to study at the College?
I came to King's because of the Joint Honours English and French Law Degree pioneered in 1977 and was one of only seven students to debut the course. In the second year, I switched to the normal LL.B course as I had by then decided on a career at the Bar, with much encouragement from King's lecturers and tutors, and was advised a fuller English Law education was more apposite, which was good advice. I had always been sports obsessed. My graduation present to myself was a trip to 1980 Moscow Olympics. When sports law developed as a subject I wanted to learn more. In 1997 King's, again as pioneer, introduced first part-time post grad course in Sports Law and I was one of the pioneer students. (This time I did see it through!)
Who was your favourite lecturer?
Professor Guest for Contract and Tort - wasn't he everyone's? I am also very grateful to Joe Thompson, who generated my interest in Labour/Employment Law, which recently saw me do my first ever Supreme Court case in the subject area.
Did you stay in Halls?
I lived in intercollegiate halls of residence Canterbury Hall in Cartwright Gardens. In those days it was single sex and my Irish Catholic father wouldn't countenance his convent school-educated daughter coming to "wicked" London to live in mixed halls. Therefore, King's own halls were sadly not an option. That said, Canterbury Hall was superbly located to see London and get about and I ended up living there for three years as I got elected Hall VP in my final year.
Were you a member of any societies during your studies?
I was a member of a number of societies but many of them were intercollegiate rather than King's because of living close to ULU and because of the greater variety. I was a Labour Party activist then as now. King's Labour Society was tiny, because of the College student mix back then, so I was more active at ULU level. I was also in the Hockey Club, the Film Society, Catholic Society (to please my dad) and the Squash Club.
You’ve maintained a strong relationship with King’s. What has fuelled this?
Proximity is part of it! When at the Royal Courts of Justice or Chambers I pass King's every day.
What do you consider the most important developments for future law students at King’s?
I have a concern for new law graduates and to be honest am glad I am probably in the last 10 years of my career rather than the first 10. Things have become more competitive in terms of obtaining training contracts and pupillages and so much more seems to be expected of young lawyers today in an area of retracted service opportunities.
How can alumni and employers support future graduates?
I feel new graduates will need good career guidance and mentoring more than ever before.
What do you wish you’d known at university that you know now?
That being a barrister wasn't just about trotting across to the Royal Courts of Justice and working 10 till 4, but meant covering many miles a year and sometimes working 24/7!
Mary O'Rourke is a supporter of King's new moot court which will be housed in the Somerset House East Wing find out how you can also support.
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