Barrister Profile


Year of Call: 2016

Main Areas of Practice

Administrative Law or Judicial Review
Employment Law
Personal Injury


Emma McIlveen is a specialist employment disputes barrister, providing strategic advisory and advocacy services to respondents and claimants. She has represented clients in all types of employment disputes and has a particular interest and experience in:

  1. Pregnancy discrimination
  2. Vulnerable claimants & reasonable adjustments
  3. Serious sexual harassment

In recent months, she has developed a specialty in advising both employers and employees on the enforceability of and/or breaches of post-employment restrictive covenants, applying for and defending applications for injunctive relief. She has experience of bringing High Court personal injury claims for assaults at work and claims involving psychological injury through harassment, bullying and stress at work. Emma has also represented clients charged with disciplinary offences before professional regulators. This area of her practice is informed by her time spent as junior counsel to the Independent Neurology Inquiry.

Emma is qualified to practise in Northern Ireland, GB and the Republic of Ireland and has experience of disputes with a multi-jurisdiction element. She has appeared in courts and tribunals in all three areas.

She is author of McIlveen on Employment, a monthly roundup of employment law matters in Northern Ireland. Sign up here for the next edition.

Outside of the courtroom, Emma is a mother to three young children and was recently nominated for an Inspirational Women in Law awards by Next100Years.


LL.B. Law with Politics with First Class Honours, Queen’s University, Belfast (Ranked 1st in Class)

Kennedy Scholar, Harvard University

Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Studies with Distinction (Ranked 1st in Class)

2016; Called to the Bar of NI

2016; Admitted as Attorney of Law, New York

2019; Called to the Bar of Ireland

2020; Called to the Bar of England & Wales

Emma is also a Door Tenant with Broadway House Chambers and has experience of appearing before Employment and Immigration Tribunals in England.


Committee member of the NI Medico-Legal society.

Committee member of the Employment Lawyers Group NI

Co-Founder of the Advanced Employment Course at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queens University

Independent Assessor for the Commissioner for Public Appointments (CPANI)

Non- Executive Lay Member of the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery (NIPEC)



Emma has extensive employment law experience and has appeared in the Employment Tribunal, Court of Appeal and in front of Regulatory Panels. Emma represents both Claimants and Respondents and has acted as sole counsel in a wide range of matters including complex discrimination matters dealing with disability, age, race, pregnancy and sex discrimination. She also has experience of handling claims for unfair dismissal, discrimination by association, unfair recruitment and selection procedures, TUPE and unlawful deduction of wages. Emma has represented Claimants on behalf of the Equality Commission and successfully secured one of the highest awards for injury to feelings for pregnancy discrimination in Northern Ireland. Emma also has experience of representing vulnerable Claimants and is well versed on Galo adjustments. Emma also serves on the committee of the Employment Lawyers Group. Emma is also currently completing the Advanced Diploma in Employment Law with King’s Inns in Dublin. She has experience of acting in relation to cross-border employment issues and advising in relation to differences between employment law in Northern Ireland, GB and the Republic of Ireland.


Emma’s passion for immigration work started when she worked in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic in Boston. During her time at Harvard, Emma also travelled to Jordan to conduct an assessment of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. Emma now regularly appears before the Immigration Tribunal (both Lower & Upper Tier). Emma provides advice and representation across all areas of immigration and asylum law. She has a wide range of experience in this area and undertakes asylum appeals, deportation appeals, EEA appeals, unlawful detention claims and complex bail applications. Emma attends events organised by the Immigration Practitioners’ Group to keep abreast of developments in this area. Emma has also advised employers regarding the impact of Brexit on their business and implications for their employees.


Emma has been instructed in a number of high profile judicial reviews. Indeed, Emma was instructed by the Department of Justice in relation to the challenge of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws which went to the Supreme Court. Emma was also instructed as Junior Counsel to the Attorney General in JR76 and the Humanist Marriage Case. Emma has also appeared before the High Court as sole junior counsel for leave and substantive hearings. She has particular experience of challenges involving immigration, prison, education, and health issues. Emma has also previously taught public law at Queens’ University, Belfast.


In addition to the above, Emma has:

Emma is also currently retained as Junior Counsel to the Independent Neurology Inquiry.