Professor Jo Delahunty QC is a highly sought-after specialist children silk entrusted with the most significant and demanding national cases. Jo has become a pioneering force within her profession. Cases in which she is instructed are regularly reported for their legal significance. She is noted for being “brilliant at distilling a case down to its key issues, great at strategic planning, supportive to instructing solicitors and very easy to talk to.”
Jo was appointed Gresham Professor of Law in the summer of 2016 and in that role she has a direct interface with the public and media in a way that singles her out as a practising Queens Counsel and part time judge.
Brought up by a single mum and educated in the state sector, Jo was the first person in her family to stay in education after the age of 16. Against the odds, Jo went to Oxford University to read law: one of only two girls from her school ever to do so. Unsuited to a 9-5 job Jo describes how she had never easily accepted instruction on what to do; she thrived on competition, was a deadline junkie, an independent worker and wanted to make a difference to the world. Becoming a barrister seemed to be the perfect profession.
Jo chose to practise Civil Law initially, but soon found her niche in Public Law child protection cases. Since being called to the Bar in 1986, Jo has come to practise at the High Court level and above. Alongside her practice in the Family Justice System, between 2013-15, Jo acted on behalf of 76 bereaved families in the Hillsborough Inquests and was instrumental in securing the verdict that the inadequate emergency medical response caused or contributed to loss of life.
An accomplished speaker, Jo speaks with passion and insight on what really happens inside and outside of court. Communication, the art of persuasion, how to win an argument, how to lead a team and how to marshal your resources to make an impact to win over adversaries are the tools of her trade: ‘her conversational style of advocacy puts witnesses at their ease yet conceals a rapier –like incisiveness.’ Often representing vulnerable people, Jo explains the importance of effective listening and authenticity and is frank in describing the different ‘voices’ she has acquired to bridge the gap between the public and professionals.
In a competitive and highly specialist silk field Jo has gained a reputation for formidable advocacy and tactical trial management alongside superb client care and court room forensic skills. These strategic skills are highly relevant for leaders across many sectors. Jo describes it as the art of “marshalling information and drowning out the white noise”. Her job as a QC demands that she is highly competitive, resilient in the face of the pressures of an enormous case load, ruthlessly efficient in time management but moving forwards in her career with a strong moral compass to serve society and the clients she represents.
More recently Jo has become known an outspoken voice for gender equality in the Law Profession and is passionate about mentoring and role modelling for all young students and barristers working their way through the ranks. She has spoken openly about the use and abuse of power in the legal profession: described as ‘fearless’ in her pursuit of fairness for those who don’t have a voice or are afraid to use it.
Jo has been interviewed by the First 100 years team for episode 9 of 10 as we approach the centenary of the Sex Discrimination Removal Act 1919. To listen to the podcast click here.
For more of an insight into Jo’s life outside of family law, into giving professional speaking advice to a wider audience, click here.