John Scottus Class of 2000. Barrister, Dublin.
After leaving JSS, Nathan did a degree in History in Trinity College Dublin. He then studied law in the King’s Inns and became a barrister. Here he talks about some of the interests and influences of his school years.
What did you do after you left school?
I did history in Trinity for four year. After that I did a legal diploma and a one-year degree course in the King’s Inns to become a barrister of law.
I understand that becoming a barrister is a long and difficult process. How does it work?
Well, you start off by devilling, or pupillage, which is effectively an apprenticeship. There was an explosion of new barristers from the early 2000s. In my year there were way too many, 203 rather than about 70 now. This made it more difficult to succeed at the profession at the time. Had I known more about the profession, had I been older, had my family been involved in it, I probably would have thought more about what I was doing but it was pure chance that I got great devilling experience and it worked out well in the end!
Did you always want to be a lawyer?
I don’t think so. There was a point in my teenage years where I had considered it. I often thought I wanted to be a journalist. When the crunch time arrived towards the end of my degree, I chose law. I initially didn’t know a lot about what was involved. My knowledge of the law was mostly limited to A Few Good Men! When I went to hand in my barrister’s legal diploma application form they said “Sorry, this is the Law Society; this is where solicitors come! Your place, the Kings Inns, is over there; up the hill!” So, I was like, “I clearly have no idea what’s going on; I’m not even in the right building!”
What was your first job?
I briefly washed cars as a teenager with Nick and Chris Murphy; they had a burgeoning car washing business when they were in Fourth Year. When I was in university, I worked in a call centre. It was the most tedious job I’ve done. It helps to remind myself of that in the duller moments of my current job. I also briefly worked for MovieExtras briefly when studying in the King’s Inns. I also ended up as an extra on an ITV drama set on a ferry and starring James Nesbitt. I also remember having to dance in a nightclub for an RTÉ three part drama in stone-cold silence with people acting out an argument at the bar, because they put the music in later. It’s a long day being an extra! I was mainly in the office though.
How did you find JSS?
I loved JSS. I really grew up there. I was in a class with the same people since I was four. John Scottus School started in 1986 in Baggot Street, the year I began. We were the first junior infants year, after the pilot scheme the year before. It had an almost familial atmosphere then; perhaps it still does. Mr Alexander took English and History. I was always better at literary subjects than more quantitative subjects.
What are your main memories from those days?
It was a very relaxed, happy, friendly place. We would play football at break in Herbert Park and often come back full of mud. I loved Latin and Greek. I was particularly interested in the history side of it; the Peloponnesian war, the Persian wars, the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar. It gave me an enduring interest in these areas, which are always there to reward reading and studying. I also remember the school trips. We went skiing in Andorra in Transition Year, which, in retrospect was very self-indulgent compared to the subsequent JSS TY trips to India to do good, charitable work!
We did plenty of great outdoors stuff; hiking, camping, and going on nature walks with Dr Telford. Hiking in somewhere like Glendalough always seemed like a thing you would do. It wasn’t something I was aware of at the time but not everyone does these things. After the Leaving Cert we went on one last school trip to Ecuador.
What about mindfulness, meditation and the pause?
The pausing thing, I am amazed at how it went from being unheard of to being an app. It’s now a part of the received wisdom. Mindfulness is now seen as important in a similar way to how we talk about the importance of taking your vitamin tablets, though in JSS it was a broader concept than that. Take the pause, the idea of trying to calm your mind down and being still is very important to everyone and is constantly underrated. I’d be prone to be tightly wound up about work. Meditation is useful to have when you need it.
What about plays, music and public speaking?
Yes, we did Hamlet in Transition Year. I was Hamlet. I still get dogs’ abuse about that; I even got slagged about it on my wedding day! That was great. I always look back on this very favourably. One great thing about JSS, in my experience, was that you had to do everything. You couldn’t silo yourself off, whether it was with the choir, the play, or the football team. Being in a choir is a great experience. Choral singing, when done well, is amazing. It’s also endorphin boosting. I thought it was a great place for that kind of thing.
What influences of the school do you carry with you today?
I think there is very little about me that has not been influenced by the school; my broad view, the friends I have. The exposure to the extern philosophy and of unorthodox ideas, at least in this part of the world, was quite unique and gives you a sense of openness. It was only after school that I came to really appreciate how unusual it was to study this stuff. Most things about me are in some way influenced by JSS. The school taught me a lot about the importance of being honest, to be truthful. Of course, honesty and truthfulness apply to a lot of people, and a lot of places, but that’s where I got a lot of mine from.