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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Meet the team: Solicitor Karen McConnell

For many years, Housing Rights has employed specialist solicitors who provide legal representation to clients with complex housing issues. In the past, our legal team has assisted with landmark cases with far-reaching implications, including the Bank of Scotland case on double charging and the Loughran v Piney case which looked at the legality of certain fees charged by letting agents to tenants. 

Our legal team can consider cases of appropriate complexity where the client is eligible for legal aid and the case fits the organisation's case selection policy. Our solicitors will usually only deal with a case that has been escalated through out other advice services. Speak to an adviser if you believe that you need specialist legal help with a housing case. 

With two new solicitors in post, we'd like to introduce our legal team to our members and users and start with Karen McConnell. 

Tell us about your training and experience

I completed a graduate LLB at the University of Birmingham and then the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in Guildford. I completed a two-year training contract and two years’ post-qualification experience at a West London solicitors’ firm. While practising in England, my case load spanned all areas of housing law.  Later, I worked as a Housing Solicitor in the Guildford office of a large national solicitor's firm and built up a Housing Department there. Again, I undertook the full gamut of housing work.

Why did you decide to specialise in housing?

I began to specialise in housing law purely by chance during my training contract as the solicitor supervising my training left the firm and I inherited a housing case-load from him. I had to learn from scratch and bit-by-bit built up expertise in this complex area of law.  I enjoy working in housing because it is a highly complex area of law that impacts on every single individual in society. 

When did you start working with Housing Rights and why did you want to work here?

Before moving back to Northern Ireland, I spent a considerable amount of time working as a housing solicitor at the Lambeth Law Centre. Covering the Lambeth, Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Courts and the Lambeth Benefits Tribunal, I really saw how essential it is to ensure that everyone can access good quality legal advice, regardless of their means.  Throughout my career, I've been committed to using the law to help vulnerable people, and Housing Rights seemed like an ideal fit with this.

I joined Housing Rights in September 2018, initially working as a Housing Adviser before being appointed to the role of solicitor in May 2019. I'm currently working on a mixed caseload, with an emphasis on preventing evictions and challenging decisions relating to homelessness assistance.  My areas of specialist interest are public law cases and using judicial review proceedings to challenge public bodies. 

What tips would you give to other advisers working on housing cases?

I would say that you always need to have a very strong grip of the facts in every instance; cases revolve around fact and not opinion. You need to be tenacious; if you keep trying and trying for someone, eventually there will be a breakthrough and light at the end of the tunnel.