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From bar to bar as Crowe takes silk and spreads legal wings


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

From bar to bar as Crowe takes silk and spreads legal wings From bar to bar as Crowe takes silk and spreads legal wings

Publican Michael John Crowe has been called to the bar – after returning to education and qualifying as a Barrister at Law.

The first bar this Galway City Councillor was used to from a young age was Crowe’s in Bohermore, in the family since 1901.

Now he’s qualified alongside other ‘legal eagles’ and members of the Bar of Ireland or Law Library, after several years of studying law as a mature student.

“I’m finding my feet,” he tells the Tribune, in a phone interview from the steps of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin in December.

“It’s fairly full on, it’s all new,” adds the 49-year-old, two months into his mandatory year of devilling, which is an apprenticeship or ‘shadowing’ of a barrister who has been qualified for at least eight years.

It’s been a long road to here.

Mike Crowe was just 18, when his father, Gus, died, leaving behind a widow and five young children. This “probably impacted us all in some way”, he admits.

“Your life then takes a different direction than it may have if that didn’t happen, which is natural,” he says.

Though he completed his Leaving Cert at the Bish (St Joseph’s), third-level education was not really on his radar. This was partly due to the family circumstances, but also because, he says, there wasn’t much information available or emphasis on the value of third-level education in the early 1990s.

Instead, he worked part-time in the family pub, and got an admin job with FBD Insur ance, which was then based on Merchants’ Road.

His career path has changed many times since. He opened a business in Westside; he got involved in politics, serving as a Fianna Fáil city councillor for 20 years next year, and making an unsuccessful Dáil bid in 2007. He also worked for MS Ireland.

But soon after returning to manage the family pub in 2016, he decided to scratch a long-standing itch for third-level education.

“It was something always on my mind. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do something now or I never will’. I didn’t want to die wondering,” he recalls.

In summer of 2017, he met Ciarán Patten, course co-ordinator of Diploma in Legal Studies in King’s Inns.

Essential for people without undergraduate law degrees, this diploma offers an alternative route to becoming a barrister.

Mike did the course over two years. Though part-time, it was full-on – four nights per week, from 5.30pm-8.30pm, and every second Saturday. Once he completed that, he was eligible to sit entrance exams to do the Barrister at Law (BL).

With a local election campaign to fight in between, in 2019, he took time out and only started the BL course in September 2021.

Galway City Council contributed €1,500 to the cost of the educational training course, according to publicly available 2022 expenses’ returns.

He completed the course on a modular basis, with classes in Dublin from 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday every second weekend for two years.

And while it involved a lot of commuting and he jokes that he’s ‘not too sure how I got over the line’, passing 13 exams en route, Mike Crowe graduated and was called to the Bar by the Chief Justice in July.

While he’s devilling – which all new barristers must do for a year – he’s learning the trade, helping out with and researching legal cases.

Law was the only area of academia Mike wanted to study. And he chose the barrister route because it was “one of those professions that is not age-discriminatory”.

“Older people bring experience to the Law Library and experienced practitioners in law would have a certain regard for that; age can help more than hinder”, he says.

Of course, his political experience helps too. “I’ve been a local rep since 2004, so I’ve met people from most walks of life. You do have some bank of experience of humanity in dealings with people,” he says.

Right now, he’s still based in Galway, and is still ‘tipping away’ in the pub and café businesses and his City Council work, while working in his new profession for a few days a week in Dublin.

Mike Crowe’s advice to secondary school students is 100% go on to study at third-level. And he has the same advice for mature adults pondering a change of direction.

“Don’t die wondering. Whatever it is in life, if you believe it’s worth a go, and it has crossed your mind more than once, then I think you need to seriously think about it and give it a go. Eventually we will all be in the back of a hearse and it will be too late then,” he adds.

Pictured: Mike Crowe is currently devilling as he learns the trade.

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