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Legal eagle flying high

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

WHEN Darragh Mackin was a teenager, he dreamed of one day opening his own clothes shop.

He worked, after all, from the age of 13 until he was 17, in Louis Boyd's Menswear store.

But life often takes us in different directions, and 26-year-old Darragh, recently appointed a partner with KRW Law in Belfast, and as such, one of the youngest ever partners in the country, has no doubt that he is now exactly where he is supposed to be.

Educated at St Colman's College, Darragh studied law at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. While he was there, and at the age of 20, he went to do a week's work experience with the Belfast firm, and has been there ever since.

The principal of that firm, which specialises in advocacy, criminal law, human rights, judicial review, prison law and civil litigation is Kevin Winters, who is another former St Colman's student.

When Darragh qualified, he worked initially in the area of criminal law, but has since concentrated on human rights and public law.

In 2016, he was named Legal Aid Newcomer of the Year at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year awards in London, and has represented such high profile clients as the 'Hooded Men', and Ibrahim Halawa.

"Very quickly into practice, I worked out that it was helping people that made me tick the most," said Darragh.

"And that's where I've found my niche, in actually helping people. So it was probably a natural progression into the field of human rights, where it is about ensuring that there are minimum protections in place for those who are most vulnerable to abuse.

"One of the joys of working is that one day you could be trying to help keep Daisy Hill Hospital open, and the second day, you could be in Egypt trying to ensure that an Irish citizen doesn't face the death penalty.

"It's that wide variety that makes this job extremely enjoyable, but not only enjoyable, but also purposeful because not only are you doing what you like to do, you're ensuring that those who you work with - you're helping."

As a young man who, through talent and hard work, has risen quickly in the legal world to an impressive height, Darragh is perfectly positioned to advise other young people on what it takes to succeed in a notoriously tough profession.

"In the current climate, we all too often hear about concerns over training contracts and about pressures on law firms," continued Darragh.

"And it's no secret that there are consistent cuts to legal aid. But my advice to those coming through, who want to do law, is never to be put off by economic pressures or cuts to legal aid.

"Those fears have resulted in so many good lawyers thinking that the only way that you can become a solicitor or a barrister is to focus on the commercial law end or the company law end of the profession.

"And that has resulted in so many good lawyers not doing what they want to do. And my further advice would be two things. "Firstly, always to go where you think that your heart lies, not where your head lies. For those who want to do the likes of public law and human rights - there will always be a need for those kind of lawyers.

"And secondly, I would advise to go straight into the practice of law and to see it in a practical arena. That has changed my whole approach to law, and that is one thing that I would encourage anybody who is studying law to do as quickly as possible."

On the achievement of being appointed a partner at such a young age, Darragh paid tribute to his parents for their support over the years.

"It was a very, very proud moment in my career, and particularly for my family who have stuck by me through thick and thin, and through very, very stressful times," said Darragh.

"And it's to them that I am indebted, to allow me to get this stage."

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