Name: Emma-Louise Fenelon
Chambers: 1, Crown Office Row
Degree: LL.B, Trinity College Dublin; LL.M, Harvard Law School
Studied BPTC: BPP Holborn
Hobbies: Muay Thai, backpacking, theatre, cinema
How many rounds of applications did it take to get pupillage? One.
Number of interviews attended: 11.
Why did you decide to train as a barrister?
Anyone who knows me will tell you I love to argue. I love the mechanics of argument, the satisfaction of persuading someone to change their mind or see something differently, the craft of rhetoric. At university I was a real debate-geek, addicted to shows like the West Wing and much involved in Trinity’s debating society, the Hist.
I was also fascinated by how people like former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and Senators David Norris and Ivana Bacik used to the law to advance social progress.
I moved to London after my Masters and spent two years working at an NGO called The AIRE Centre, where I saw how the law could be used to keep the state accountable. It was an inspiring place to work.
I spent two further years working for Lord Lester in the House of Lords, witnessing the genius of Peers such as Lord Pannick, the late Lord Avebury, and Baroness Kennedy persuade their colleagues to defeat the Government on issues from judicial review restrictions, to police powers, to the reduction of legal aid. Given my interests, the Bar seemed a natural next step.
What was the toughest pupillage interview question you were asked (at any chambers) and how did you answer?
I was asked who I would save in a doomed hot air-balloon and given the names, ages and characteristics of about eight people, including a child, who were destined to die without the intervention of my single parachute. I still cringe at the thought of that interview – it was a car crash.
Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment…
Currently I’m working for the Metropolitan Police on the Undercover Police Inquiry. The work is a fascinating insight into police work and the scale of an Inquiry. I’m really enjoying learning from the more senior members of the legal team and the police officers assigned to assist us. Initially it was a little daunting to join a project with so many moving parts, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the work now.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
Self-employment. There is unbridled joy in being your own boss.
What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to get to grips with?
Self-employment. It turns out being your own boss can be an unbridled nightmare.
What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?
The admin – it’s relentless!
Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?
It’s from one of our clerks, letting me know where I’ll be prosecuting this Friday. I’ve found appearing in the Magistrate’s Court a valuable, if occasionally hair-raising, way to build up advocacy experience.
What’s your best ‘in court’ anecdote so far?
In my very first court appearance I was up against a Tier 1 ranked barrister who had supervised me during a mini-pupillage several years earlier. As a first outing, it was certainly memorable…
Which member of chambers (barrister or otherwise) would you want to be on the run with in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and why?
There are quite a few female members of chambers also into martial arts. I reckon any one of them would be a safe bet.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).
- I can speak conversational Cantonese.
- I once won a no-expense spared trip to California through a radio competition.
- I was once the guest of honour at a school prize-giving ceremony in Delhi, India.
If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
Investigative journalist, no question.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career as a barrister?
Identify what you are interested in and tailor your experience accordingly. The most impressive candidates demonstrate commitment to their interests early on, not only in the months leading up to pupillage interviews.