Lawyer course

Activist Lawyer, starring Emma McIlveen, launches

Activist Lawyer’s latest podcast episode features Emma McIlveen, a lawyer who primarily specializes in employment law. She is particularly interested in pregnancy-related discrimination and vulnerable claimants.

Before becoming a lawyer, she was a Kennedy Fellow at Harvard University. Emma now publishes a monthly employment law newsletter ‘McIlveen on Employment’ and Emma co-founded an advanced employment course at the Institute for Professional Legal Studies.

In 2021, she was shortlisted for the Next100Years Inspirational Women in Law award and recently completed a Global Leadership Program provided by the University of Cambridge. Outside of the Bar, she is a mother of three children and is passionate about country music, reflexology and breastfeeding.

Emma’s interview on Activist Lawyer can be heard now on Spotify and all major streaming platforms or via

We caught up with Emma to talk about what activism means to her.

How important is activism?

The word activism at first made me uneasy. I had a vision in my head of standing with a sign protesting for change in the streets. However, when you look at the definition of activism, it means taking action to bring about change. This can include small steps. Throughout history, women have been involved in activism, whether at home, in the workplace, or in the wider public sphere. The importance of small, courageous steps cannot be underestimated.

Can we effectively use the law as a tool for activism?

Yes we absolutely can, especially in Northern Ireland. Challenges brought in NI courts can have a significant impact in encouraging change in our society. Lawyers can also participate in initiatives aimed at improving access to justice by getting involved in committees relevant to their area of ​​practice.

Tell us about a career milestone/a case that will stay with you forever

In 2013, I received a Kennedy Fellowship to allow me to study at Harvard for one academic year. This experience was life changing, opened my eyes to the possibilities outside of Northern Ireland and made me believe that anything I could dream of was possible.

Does your current practice specialize in a specific area? Yes, I specialize in employment law and have a particular interest in pregnancy-related discrimination and vulnerable claimants. For others interested in labor law, a good way to keep up to date with current labor law issues is to get involved with the NI Labor Lawyers Group. More information can be found on our website –

What is the most important change to the law that you think needs to be addressed now?

Amendment of the law to allow women to know the salaries of their male colleagues. If introduced, it would be an important step in tackling gender and ethnic pay gaps.

There is currently a draft law in the UK in this regard. If it becomes law, the Equal Pay Information and Demands Bill 2020 will give employees the right to know how much their colleagues are being paid and will require companies with at least 100 employees to report their discrepancy compensation between gender and ethnicity.

Subscribe to Activist Lawyer and download the latest episodes on the podcasting platform of your choice. See Spotify for episodes.

Emma’s employment law newsletter is available here.

For more on Emma, ​​see here and here.