Seven Questions with... Conor Courtney

This week we meet Conor Courtney, who is completing a Master’s at UCL in International Commercial Law. Conor is a Senior Editor at SCL Student Bytes, and was recently announced as a national finalist in the National Accident Helpline 2020 Future Legal Mind Awards.

What are you studying, why are you interested in this subject and what do you plan to do in the future?

I am in the final few months of a full-time taught postgraduate Master’s in International Commercial Law at UCL. I love law because I have seen first-hand how much good can be accomplished through our legal systems. Although this is not always the case, the law can be used as a powerful tool for fighting injustices and for helping others. I think that law has a tendency to bring out people’s vulnerabilities, and being able to support someone as they go through a legal battle is such a gratifying and important opportunity. I volunteer with the Chelsea Citizens Advice Bureau, and the legal charity JUSTICE, and it has been great interacting with and helping clients.
My grandfather was a lawyer, and although he passed away before I was born, I like to think that being a lawyer is in my blood. I hope to continue with law after I graduate, with the goal of becoming a solicitor.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve done, seen or got involved with while at UCL?

I have loved my year at UCL, as fleeting as it was, and I owe a lot of my best experiences and memories to my extracurriculars, especially my volunteering and pro bono work. I think being a part of the Student Pro Bono Committee was a great opportunity for me to get involved with UCL on a very personal level. I got to meet such amazing fellow students, and we worked hard together on projects like the Great Legal Bake Sale, and even our volunteer Christmas party. The Centre for Access to Justice has also been such an amazing community here, and I got the chance to work with such passionate and inspiring people on projects like the Rare Dementia Legal Advice Clinic. Amazingly, this community also helped me in other areas, such as the Future Legal Mind Awards.

Have you discovered any hidden gems during your time at UCL?

This is probably a boring answer, and hopefully this doesn’t ruin the secret for everyone else, but my favourite hidden gem is the fifth floor library in the Archaeology building. It was one of the first areas that I went off and found myself, so it always felt personal to me. You get the chance to sit in these small cloister areas surrounded on all sides by huge bookcases, and each desk has a small plant pot and a bust of a historical figure. In this area you also get to hear the staff chatting, which is great because I can’t study in dead silence! Whenever I studied there, I was able to think about how lucky I was to be in London for the year, so I think that was my small gem.

Give us your top three things to do/see/go to in London:

Number one has to be Chinatown. I live nearby, and it holds such a special place in my heart. I love being able to drop into a new restaurant any day and being able to try some amazing new dish. Getting to celebrate Chinese New Year there was also a highlight of the year.

Number two is nearby, but I love all of the cinemas in Leicester Square. During my undergraduate degrees, I completed a full time English degree while also studying for my LLB part-time at night, and so one of the few dates that I could go on with my girlfriend was midnight movie showings. Even now, this is still one of our favourite things to do, and with all of the cinemas in Leicester Square there are so many choices. In particular I love Curzon, for its aesthetic vibes.

Finally, and I’m sure this is truly cementing my place as a newcomer to London, but I love Winter Wonderland. It reminds me of cold winter mornings, hot chocolate, and new experiences. I know we’re in the middle of summer, and right now we can’t do a lot of the things we usually would, but I think it’s important to remember that at some point life will return to normal, so I’m looking ahead to Winter Wonderland!

If you were Provost for the day what one thing would you do?

I would love to see UCL add night-time courses to its programme lists. I studied with people who were doing an LLB while working full-time in retail, or as policemen, or as restaurant owners, and I had so much respect for all of my classmates. I think night courses can offer an amazing opportunity to people who, for whatever reason, can’t commit to a conventional degree programme, and I think it would be great for UCL to open their doors to those students.

Who inspires you and why?

I think my family are one of my greatest sources of inspiration. As the youngest of four children I have had the opportunity to see a lot, and to learn a lot from my siblings. I’ve never really liked the idea of idolising someone, because I think that nobody is perfect, and the best thing you can focus on is trying to better yourself at any opportunity. My family has helped me to learn more about bettering myself, and especially about how to focus on the bigger picture in life, which is so important when it feels like university is everything. During this pandemic I think that being away from my family has felt more noticeable than ever before, and I’m sure that a lot of students are experiencing this. My family, and in particular my mom, has inspired me to push myself, to try to always consider others, and especially to fight for what’s right, especially when those around you consider it a losing battle.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Most people don’t know that I love horror movies, especially the cheesy, the low budget, or the camp 90s ones. I think that law can be a particularly serious subject, so escaping into a nonsensical slasher film can be a welcome change!


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