My Career: 25 Years in the Legal Industry, Karen Tobin, Family Law Solicitor

Karen Tobin, Family Law Solicitor at Comyn Kelleher Tobin.

Education background: Bachelor of Civil Law at UCC, Admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in 2011.

Hobbies: Walking, kayaking, swimming, cooking.

Describe your job in five words: Rewarding, challenging, exciting, demanding and fulfilling.

Describe yourself in five words: Much the same as my job!

Personality needed for this kind of work? A great listener and multi-tasker.

How long are you doing this job? I am in the legal industry for 25 years; I am in my current role for nearly 10 years.

How did you get this job? When I completed my leaving certificate, I had absolutely no idea of what I would do next. I did not want to commit my parents to a college course with cumbersome fees, not having a particular interest in any course. My priority was to do a course and get out into the workforce at that time.

I decided I would opt for a course in Tourism and Travel in the College of Commerce and see where that would take me. After a year of this, I decided this was really not for me and that I would be better served doing a secretarial course and getting myself an office job.

My first ever permanent job came to me as a junior office assistant at Comyn Kelleher Tobin Solicitors over 25 years ago. My duties entailed wearing a pathway up and down South Mall to the courthouses in Cork, assisting the secretaries in the office with photocopying, filing, answering the phones when required and a trip with the post to the GPO at 4:30p.m. every evening. 

After a year or so, I started working for one of the partners, Katharine Kelleher, as her secretary. Katharine was a partner practising at the time in Family Law. I was very excited and found the work fascinating.

I then took up a Legal Executive course and took on this role in the office. My role evolved from office work to court-based work. I couldn’t get enough of this work and really enjoyed it.

I then undertook a law degree by night in UCC at CKT’s suggestion. This took four years, and I then commenced as an apprentice solicitor with CKT. I qualified as a solicitor in 2011 and I have worked predominantly in Family Law and Personal Injury Litigation.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? I have a Bachelor of Law and thereafter undertook the Law Society Exams which are compulsory to train as a solicitor.

Describe a day at work: The day begins for me with checking post and emails. If I have a court case or a number of cases on a given day, I will review my files to ensure that all the paperwork is ready for court.

I will meet with my client(s) in advance of court and we will go through any matters which are pertinent to their case. I prepare them for their case, what questions they may be asked, and what are the strengths and weaknesses in their case.

I am a strong believer in mediation or ‘outside the courtroom’ settlement. I always endeavour to engage with the solicitor acting for the other party and see if we can reach a compromise. 

Reaching a compromise is always the best solution as it enables the parties to have some control as to the outcome of their case. If a compromise cannot be achieved, a decision will be imposed on the parties by a judge.

Following on from time in court, communication will be sent to the clients regarding the outcome.

I would usually have a number of scheduled appointments with clients on any typical day, giving advice, progressing their case and updating clients on the current status of their case.

There will be calls with solicitors and barristers for any issues in ongoing cases. As a result of the current pandemic, the majority of meetings now take place virtually.

There is a huge amount of paperwork involved in the preparing and advice in any court case.

Do you work with others or on your own? I am lucky to work in a large firm which has the benefit of knowledge sharing.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? When I have to.

Best bits: Client satisfaction.

Worst bits: It can be difficult to switch off from work.

Advice to those who want your job? It is demanding but very satisfying work.

Any other comments? I really do enjoy my job, even on the bad days, which is really important given a large portion of your life is spent at work.


This article was recently published in The Echo. 

Karen works with clients in the following areas: 

  • Divorce, 
  • Separation, 
  • Civil Partnership, 
  • Nullity, 
  • Surrogacy,
  • Custody and Access Disputes, 
  • Maintenance, and,
  • Domestic Violence disputes in contentious and non-contentious matters.

For more information on how to contact Karen, please click here