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2L Alexa Hillery Sends Greetings from Dublin


Second-year law student Alexa Hillery participated in the Summer Law Program in Madrid and then interned at Irish law firm Mason Hayes & Curran.

She reflects on the experience here.

Alexa Hillery

Alexa Hillery, second-year law student, Saint Louis University School of Law

"Greetings from Dublin!

What a ride this summer has been! After leaving Madrid, I headed for Dublin, where the culture couldn’t have been any more different. In Madrid, you eat dinner at 9, it is so hot and you drink delicious, cool tinto de verano. In Dublin, you might be in bed at 9, it’s cool and rains (all the time!) and you drink Guinness smoother than you can imagine.

When I arrived, I was greeted by SLU LAW vet and partner of Mason Hayes & Curran, Micheál Grace. I got a quick tour of the city and the fastest Irish history lesson, and then I was set loose in Dublin. In many ways, Dublin reminds me of St. Louis. It’s a very spread out city (and everyone lives 'just outside' of Dublin) and the people are quite friendly.

Getting settled into a law firm can’t be the easiest thing in the world to do, but the people at Mason Hayes were more supportive than I could have ever hoped for. There is a comfortable, familial feeling about working at Mason Hayes, and I received valuable feedback through my work here. They work with an open floor plan, so even the most senior partner does not have an office. This was strange to me at first, but it makes it much easier to go and speak with a partner or senior associate. 

This experience has helped me grow personally and professionally, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world."

Alexa Hillery, SLU LAW Class of 2017

I started working a week before the new round of interns started, so I was sort of in-between cohorts. Not only was I trying to make friends in a new city, but I was still trying to wrap my head around the different laws and cultures of the legal world in Ireland. 

In Ireland, you go to University four years to get your degree, and then you take some qualifying exams and go to work at a firm as a trainee. Then you have to go back to school to take a few final classes and exams and once you’ve done all of that, you can (basically) apply to be a solicitor. This is a very watered down version, and if you want to become a solicitor, please don’t rely on this as your guide.

Ireland has solicitors and barristers. The main difference is that solicitors do transactional work and barristers handle litigation. To become a barrister, you have to study for two more years at the King’s Inns. I was able to shadow Micheál’s wife, Gráinne Duggan, who is a qualified barrister. In court, barristers and judges all wear black robes. Some do still wear powdered wigs, but it is not required or a very common practice anymore. It is difficult to determine who is a barrister and who is a judge, and on top of that, there are also senior barristers who have square collars on their robes and Supreme Court justices just mixed in with it all. 

When entering a court room, many of the barristers bow, which reminded me a little of church. This isn’t far off because religion is still a very big part of government here. The preamble of the Irish Constitution is very similar to that of the United States, except in the fact that it references the Holy Trinity.

Barristers are all self-employed and many of them have their offices in the Bar Council building near the courts like Gráinne does. I shadowed her on a Monday, and Mondays are reserved for disputes that may be resolved quickly. There was a real estate bubble and crash here that severely impacted the economy, and this is very apparent by the cases that are being dealt with in the courts.

Alexa Hillery in IrelandBut my trip was not all business! One weekend, I took the train about 30 minutes north of Dublin City to a little fishing town on a peninsula called Howth. I (accidentally) hiked around the entire peninsula and took in some truly beautiful views from the cliffs.

Little did I know the most beautiful sights were yet to come, as I was able to visit Cork and the Cliffs of Moher the next weekend. I even got to kiss the Blarney stone to get the gift of gab. Just one kiss though because two brings a child!

I met up with a few friends who were visiting Dublin during the time I was here, and I took them to my favorite traditional Irish pub, O’Donoghue’s, where there’s a band of guys who sit in the front of the pub and play traditional Irish music. After a long night of craic (sounds like 'crack' but means having fun), I would grab curry chips and head home. I’m still not sure why we don’t have curry chips (fries with curry sauce) anywhere in St. Louis, but I think this is a rough injustice and something should be done.

I will miss Ireland immensely, but after about three months away from home, I’m eager to be back! This isn’t the kind of place you just visit once, so I will return someday. I really appreciate all of the help from my family, SLU LAW, and Professor Johnson for giving me this opportunity. This experience has helped me grow personally and professionally, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Sláinte!"