Interview Series: Female Managing Partners / Chairs in Dublin on Their Career Journeys & Lessons Learned
Career Journey & Lessons Learned
” People want to be valued, respected, listened to and communicated with in a clear way. ”
Can you please tell us about your background? Where does the story start?
I was born in the Coombe Hospital with my twin sister. Our younger brother was born five years later. We spent our early years living in Rathcoole, County Dublin and moved to Chicago, USA when we were nine due to our father’s job with the IDA. After five years we returned to Dublin (I quickly lost the accent) and then relocated to Dundalk, County Louth where I spent my teenage years. Our childhoods could best be described by our parents giving us the best possible life experiences we could have, wherever we were, without “losing the run of ourselves”. I am a firm believer in travel being an excellent opportunity for people regardless of age and my early life experiences and understanding and appreciation of a ‘wider world’ have definitely stood to me.
Why did you become a lawyer?
I was always interested in law, but I had no ‘real life’ legal role models and so I wasn’t sure it was an option for me. However my favourite subjects in school were English and History and I was an avid debater and public speaker . I was fortunate enough to attend UCG (now NUIG) where I undertook a fantastically diverse Arts Degree in Sociology and Politics and Legal Science and by the time I finished my BA I was convinced that law was the route I wanted to take. After spending a further two years in UCG where I obtained my LLB, I secured an apprenticeship (as it then was) with A&L Goodbody and my career began.
Can you tell us about the work you do?
I am a Commercial Litigator, which basically means I do anything and everything! I have a very diverse practice which covers everything from planning and property related disputes to financial services litigation, product liability actions and corporate disputes. As the subject matter of each claim can be very different, the most important trait for a good commercial litigator is clarity of vision and purpose; to understand fully what the client is seeking to achieve. I am really fortunate to be surrounded by a team of excellent lawyers, who make my job much easier, and to act for a group of very informed and interesting clients.
You are Location Head of DAC Beachcroft in Dublin, what have you learned about people from leading an organisation?
I am very blessed to be leading DAC Beachcroft Dublin. We have been on a huge growth trajectory in Dublin since our presence here was established over 11 years ago. Although the wider DAC Beachcroft firm has over 2500 employees across the globe my predecessor started the Dublin firm initially from her kitchen and then from the serviced office. We now we have over 83 employees, 60 of whom are fee earners and have moved to new agile offices at Three Haddington on Percy Place. Our most recent partner hire has completed our transition to a full service firm in Dublin as Ronan McLoughlin brings with him his considerable Real Estate Expertise and profile in the Dublin market.
What I have learned since I first joined the firm 10 years ago (when there were approximately 13 of us) is that people are always the most important thing. Ultimately, although we have different skill sets, different levels of qualification and fulfil different roles, everybody within DAC Beachcroft Dublin is ‘pulling in the same direction’. We all want our firm to be successful and we all have real pride in each other’s successes. Although we are part of a much larger international firm there is a real entrepreneurial spirit in Dublin. Most of us left more established Dublin firms to join DAC Beachcroft which would have been considered to have been a ‘risk’ when we did it. However nothing beats being part of something which is growing and where every person who joins us can, and does, make a real impact in the future success of the firm.
People want to be valued, respected, listened to and communicated with in a clear way. This applies to clients, colleagues and the opposition! I always aim to treat and engage with people in a way that I would like to be engaged with.
If your client only remembers one thing after working with you, what would you want it to be ?
The best compliment I ever received from a client was after a really stressful, high-octane Commercial Court case. As with most Commercial Court cases, time was of the essence and the stakes involved were very high from the client’s perspective. After the case was over, our client made a point of thanking me for the ‘grace’ that I showed when working on the case, which always stuck with me as being one of the nicest compliments that I received.
If you weren’t a lawyer what might you be doing now?
When I win the Euro Millions (which is bound to happen someday) my plan is to open a children’s bookshop and in a corner serve excellent coffees for parents and grandparents whilst their children are enjoying what’s on the shelves. I fully appreciate that as a business model, it may not be hugely profitable – hence the need to have the Euro Millions’ winnings in the bank before I undertake this folly. However I have always loved reading and have always encouraged my children and nieces and nephews to read all they can – I am the ‘annoying aunt’ that always buys books for presents!
What is the best piece of life advice you ever got?
Take responsibility. If something happens which I am responsible for, I take responsibility for it. It is a simple but transformative motto once you apply it. It is amazing how difficult people find it to take responsibility for something adverse or positive that happens that is within their control.
I also always try to ‘keep perspective’. Concerns, particularly if not shared, tend to take on an unwarranted level of importance in people’s lives. I really try to encourage colleagues and friends to speak to me, or to others if there is something bothering them or something they need help with. It is amazing sometimes how helpful an independent set of eyes can be when a problem is shared and how quickly a path or solution can be found.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have two teenage children who are happy for me to be an unpaid taxi driver most evenings and weekends. When not behind the wheel, I enjoy going out for nice meals, spending time with my family and hopefully, some time again soon, going to the cinema, to concerts or to the odd show.
Favourite place you have been/favourite holiday
Many years ago my husband and I went on a wonderful holiday to Italy where the high point for me was a trip to San Gimignano. Despite best intentions we have not been back and it is a place which I am determined to get back to. For those of us destined to holiday in Ireland for a while, Schull is beautiful and for the ultimate treat it is hard to beat the Europe in Killarney. This year we are travelling to Donegal and Fermanagh and I am really looking forward to getting to know that part of Ireland a little better (we will be bringing sunscreen and raincoats !)
My favourite book is probably To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee however I have recently enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and loved The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne.
I know I should choose some avante-garde film noir to reinforce my ‘street cred’ but in truth it is Dirty Dancing – cannot be beaten and still stands up well !
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