Interview with a Barrister: Zoë Cornelissen
Interview with a Barrister: Zoë Cornelissen
Zoë Cornelissen has been working as an In-House Counsel (Barrister) in the Aviation Department at Oracle Solicitors. She is the lead counsel in a team that is instructed by one of the world’s leading airlines to manage passenger compensation claims. She works on an array of aviation cases but specialises on claims pertaining to Regulation EU261/2004 and the Montreal Convention, involving delayed or cancelled flights in jurisdictions of England & Wales and Northern Ireland.
Before joining Oracle’s Aviation department, Zoë was a Barrister-at-Law practising within the Bar of Northern Ireland. In this role Zoë has provided expert legal advises in many aspects of law including Civil Litigation, Criminal Law and Family Matters over the past number of years.
She sat down to answer a few of our questions about her career and what she has learned.
Why did you become a barrister?
I wanted to be a Judge.
The Quick answer was that I first wanted to be a Judge, (or specifically a Coroner).
I figured out quickly though, that a Judge is restricted; A Barrister gets to advocate for others, be the voice that others don’t have, argue the ‘black and white’ concepts and persuade on views that can be fundamental to society or even just (and sometimes more importantly) change the life of one person. (can you tell I used to be a Family Law Lawyer.)
It’s unusual for a law firm to employ barristers, why Oracle Solicitors?
To become a specialist in the field of aviation.
I think you answered your own question. It is unusual, and something that caught my eye. Over my years at the bar, I have been offered different jobs with different companies, but they were always the same types of roles, there was nothing a bit new or different.
I stated at interview, that I had been very happy in my own practice, but I applied to Oracle because it had caught my attention. Oracle was offering a role that I could really sink my teeth into. I had been in a practice which had a different court and different legal areas, every day. It was great because you can very easily become a Jack of all trades, but also rather quickly a master of none. I knew that with Oracle, I could become a specialist in the field of Aviation, to prove myself and be an asset to the company.
Do you remember your first time in court?
No, unfortunately not.
Funnily enough I don’t. I am certain it was most likely for an FPC (Family Proceedings Court) mention that was given to me by a senior. It probably was for an adjournment and I was probably quaking in my heels until it was over. But then loved it after it was over and wanted to go again. I found quite quickly that advocacy was one of the best adrenaline rush’s one can have.
What was your most memorable win?
Winning the ‘this case is going to blow up in face’ cases.
This is something you always get asked as a barrister, and I must admit, if that is what is viewed by most as success, then I must look differently at my cases. Most people can recall a case that they won years ago. I always tended to think that as well as your past cases, it is about the case that you have just done. You are only as good as your last case. So, make them all good.
If I were to talk of the most rewarding cases, I would state most likely the cases; believe it or not, the cases where I was brought in on ‘Bombs’ that were seen to be unwinnable and off loaded on the young bar. The days I came away with a win on those cases, are the days at the bar that I cherish.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m not very good at spare time.
I Travel and I spend most of my spare time in Germany (Aka, I spend most of my time on a plane.) Although I am an adrenaline type of person, who is not very good at down time, I think that is why I liked court as much as I did. So, with that I love anything that goes fast; Cars, Motorbikes and Horses and they are what consume my spare time, if I have any.
What advice would you give a young aspiring Barrister?
Say Yes to every brief, stay humble as no case is beneath you, and wash your collars regularly. (Scruffy Barrister is not a good look).
Tea or coffee?
Stairs or lift?
Depends on the number of floors.
Red wine or White wine?
Beach or City Holiday?
(Sorry Barristers aren’t very good at answering questions.)