Now in its 104th Session, UCD Law Society is one of the oldest, largest and best established Societies on the Island of Ireland.
With harbouring intellect and discourse at the heart of its ethos, UCD Law Society endeavours to encourage students to explore their own beliefs and open up discussion on a wide range of issues at their weekly Tuesday evening House debates.
The Society seeks to further this by inviting prominent figures to deliver addresses the Society. Examples of notable past speakers include Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins, famed linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, West-Wing actor Martin Sheen, Sir Christopher Lee and Seamus Heaney.
UCD Law Society is one of the most visible and far reaching student entities on campus - also among the largest memberships of a student society in Europe.
The society's motto is "Ar son na córa" (in the pursuit of justice).
Founded in 1911 as the Legal & Economic Society, the prominent professor and politician, J.G. Swift McNeill, gave the inaugural address. Early committee members included Thomas Kettle, Conor Maguire, Thomas Arkins and Arthur Cox. During its initial years The Society ran a number of small legal debates, however maintaining its level of activity during the War of Independence and Civil War became difficult.
After being renamed the Legal Society in 1924 under the auditorship of J.C. Flood, the Society experienced a brief resurgence of activity. 1926 however proved troublesome, and the Society once again ran into difficulty.
Not until 1935, did the Society revive on firm footing. Reconstituted to be known as the Law Society, it was tasked with organising legal debates, and serving the interests of law students. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Society began to challenge the Literary & Historical Society for dominance in University debate. A debating tour to Universities in Britain was organised annually, with team places much coveted. The tour eventually ceased in Colm Allen’s session due to security concerns following IRA violence in the Troubles.
In the 1970s the Society achieved unprecedented debating success. Following its recognition as an individual University debating institution for the purposes of national and international competition, it won the Irish Times Debating Competition twice in the 1970s as well as the Irish Mace, both times with Auditor Conor Gearty. It continued this success throughout the 1980s and 1990s as the society won the Irish Times twice more.
The 1980s and 1990s also saw an increase in the scale of the Society’s activities as it began to host larger and more exciting debates. The notorious criminal, Martin Cahill, addressed the Society in 1987 and for many years the Society held the Guinness World Record for the longest ever continuous debate.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Society expanded its membership to beyond merely law students, reaching across campus to all faculties. It has since experienced massive growth, to become one of the most popular Societies in UCD amongst the entire student body.
The Law Society is run by a committee of selected members, each with a specific remit. The committee is chosen by the Auditor, who is elected for a single year term by the enrolled membership of the Society. The Auditor is the head of the committee and responsible for the day-to-day running of the Society. The current Auditor is Rachel Duffy.
The Society’s sessions usually begin in late March or early April, following the Annual General Meeting. The AGM consists of reports from the Auditor, Treasurer, Librarian and Senior Legal Assessor. At the AGM the results of the auditorial election are declared and the new Auditor appointed following the passing over of the chain of office, and ringing in of the new Session.
Patron, President and Vice-Presidents
These roles are largely ceremonial in their function. At present, the Patron of the Society is the current president of University College Dublin, Professor Andrew J. Deeks. Its President is the Dean of the School of Law, Professor Colin Scott. There are a number of Vice-Presidents, who are almost exclusively all international legal figures and address the Society upon their appointment to the position. The most notable Vice-Presidents are the Chief Justice of Canada, the Hon. Ms Justice Beverly McLachlin PC, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, the former President of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Professor Joseph Raz, Baroness Hale of Richmondand, and former Irish President and U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson.
In recent years, the Society has received an increased amount of funding, which in turn has allowed it to continuously improve upon the caliber of its events, year upon year. This funding is largely the result of corporate sponsorship and College contributions. At present, the Society’s title sponsor is Matheson.
The Society’s accounts are presented by the Honourable Treasurer at each AGM. The annual turnover of the Society is in the region of €100,000, to cover the cost of each session. The Society’s finances are overseen by its Senior Treasurer.