This week in our MHC Life series, we speak to Naomi Clarke, an Associate on our Charity & Not-for-Profit team. Naomi talks about her first job and her passion.
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey to MHC – what inspired you to get into this career?
While studying Law with Social Justice at UCD, I had the opportunity to do a clinical legal education placement with FLAC – a legal charity that promotes access to justice. While interning, I got to work on the FLAC referral phoneline, answering basic legal queries from the public about everything from landlord and tenant disputes, family law, to road traffic offences. I even remember one query about a sham marriage. As a law student, it was an incredible experience to have that human contact, and it was really encouraging to be able to provide people with relevant and useful information about the options available to them, whatever their situation.
I was also extremely lucky to be involved in ongoing High Court litigation whereby FLAC were supporting Robbie Synnott, a representative of the Blind Legal Alliance, who successfully challenged the State’s failure to put in place mechanisms for visually impaired persons to be able to vote by secret ballot.
The placement was supposed to last 4 weeks. I ended up staying 3 months. Pretty soon after that, I made up my mind to become a solicitor. I applied for the internship at Mason Hayes & Curran, and I haven’t looked back.
Which sector do you work in?
I work as part of the Charity and Not-for-Profit team at Mason Hayes & Curran. Ireland has a huge and vibrant non-profit sector. As of last year, there were 11,426 registered charities in Ireland. These charities vary hugely, in terms of their size, legal structure, sources of income and levels of expenditure, their numbers of employees and volunteers, and also in terms of the charitable purposes they exist to pursue. Despite the vast diversity across the sector, all of these organisations are run by volunteer boards, and they all exist to pursue charitable objectives for the public benefit.
Working within this diverse sector, I get to work with all kinds of charities and non-profits –– ranging from small community-based operations to multinational NGOs; to hospitals, churches and universities; animal rescue charities and everything in between.
Talk us through a typical day for you
As a charities lawyer, every day is different, but they all start out the same. My Christian faith is a huge part of my life, so I begin every day with setting aside some time in the morning for prayer and reading my bible. I find that that time gives me the sense of peace and perspective that I need to get motivated for the day ahead.
I’m lucky that I can walk to work, and once I get to the office, my task list can include anything from preparation of new charity registration applications to assisting charities with their ongoing governance requirements, including reporting on compliance with the Charities Governance Code. One of the best aspects of my job is getting to work on a daily basis with volunteer trustees and employees who work so hard to serve their charity’s causes with passion, care and commitment.
As thought leaders in the charity law space, our team are always also looking down the tracks to see what legal developments are coming up for the sector. At the moment we are keenly focused on the development of the Charities Amendment Bill and the Gambling Regulation Bill – both of which will have big implications for charities and not-for-profits in Ireland.
What was your first job?
While I was in college I got roped into a gig as a backing vocalist, representing Ireland at the Eurovision. That was a once in a lifetime experience. The entire Irish delegation were so much fun (we took it all a bit less seriously than some of our European counterparts) and we had an absolute blast spending two weeks in Vienna. I got to meet some incredible people, who are now lifelong friends. I also managed to save enough that I could quit bartending for my final year in college – so that was a bonus!
What's your idea of a perfect holiday/favourite place you've ever visited?
That’s an easy one – it has to be New Zealand. I have a Kiwi Dad, so more than half of my family are based over there. I was very fortunate to be able to visit in January. I spent as much time as I could soaking up that Southern Hemisphere summer, sea-swimming at Waikanae Beach, zorbing in Rotorua, and getting beaten at Rummikub by my 92-year-old Nana.
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