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Legal experience has diminished value  in ‘brave new normal’ – chief justice

17 Sep 2020 / employment Print

Value of experience has diminished in ‘brave new normal’ – chief justice

Chief Justice Frank Clarke (pictured) has told the UCD law class of 2020 that the ‘brave new normal’ of COVID-19 will bring them fresh opportunities.

“Experience is only useful if the game stays the same,” he said.

"The new normal will be very different to the old, and that will be challenging, but it can also give great opportunities,” the chief justice said.

New world

Speaking at the virtual conferring, at the graduation ceremony for the Sutherland School of Law students on 1 September, the chief justice said that no one has any experience of doing remote hearings.

“You will go into a new world, with a brave new normal, in which you will be every bit as competent and experienced as those who have been around for a long time,” he said.

His recent comment on "five years of change in the courts in the space of five months", though mathematically symmetrical, was probably an underestimate, the chief justice observed.

Some of that change may not last, but an awful lot of it will be permanent, he continued.

Experience valued

“The new normal will be very different to the old normal and that has presented challenges to all of us,” he said. 

“We in the courts have changed radically.

“I have spent a lot of the time looking into a screen, presiding over the Supreme Court from my own home, having case conferences with colleagues about upcoming appeals.”

Experience has been valued in many areas of life, but in the law in particular, he observed.

“Those who had many years of experience sometimes won out over others who were young and enthusiastic and with fresh knowledge.

“But experience is only useful if the game stays the same. If there is a new playing pitch, as we will all be operating on in the near future, then experience is of greatly-diminished value,” he said.

Future career paths will be different, and challenging, but will give great opportunities.

More paths

“There are many more career paths for the law graduate than when I qualified nearly 50 years ago,” the chief justice noted.

The traditional practising professions have changed and will continue to change, he said.

New practice areas have opened up in Government, in NGOs, and in business, he said, and research lawyers have an increasing role, whether in academia coupled with teaching, or increasingly in bodies such as the Law Reform Commission, and in the courts, which have an expanding research function.

The chief justice said that he was a UCD Arts graduate, with a degree in mathematics and economics.

He had a strong connection with UCD Law, he explained, because it was previously possible for an undergrad in any faculty to attend law lectures, then present at the King’s Inns as a non-law graduate to do exams in core subjects, and go straight into the professional course.

“That’s the model that I followed, but it’s very different today, as so many things are different today.”

The chief justice said it was his pleasure to participate in a most unique conferring of UCD law degrees.

He congratulated the degree recipients on reaching an important milestone and said they should celebrate, but safely.

Gazette Desk
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