As part of our MHC Intern Life series, Donna O'Leary tells us about her journey into law and her favourite food.
What inspired you to venture on this career path / why did you choose law?
During transition year in school, I reached the Munster Final of “debating science issues” held by University College Cork each year. Although the topics were science based, it raised a lot of moral, political and legal issues to be dealt with when formulating my arguments. When it came to choosing my CAO, I instinctively put down Law Clinical (which included a six month placement in a law firm) as my first choice, followed by Government and Politics and Law and Business. During my time at UCC, I was vice auditor for the Free Legal Aid Society. We collaborated with the students union to create the first “Know Offence” campaign to combat sexual violence on campus, invited guest speakers to discuss legal issues such as the gender pay-gap, the gender equality referendum and the eighth referendum. In my third year, I was fortunate enough to be placed in a Dublin law firm within the M&A department when the Companies Act 2014 was first enacted. I also became heavily involved in a hostile takeover between two pharmaceutical companies. This experience confirmed to me that I wanted to pursue a career in a commercial law firm. Recently, I was surprised to find out that over 50% of law graduates do not pursue a career in law but I’ve always felt that each step in my career path was a natural progression to the next.
Talk us through a typical day for you when you were an intern & now as a trainee
I interned in the Real Estate department for one month prior to signing my contract with MHC for the traineeship. As an intern, you experience the work of a trainee solicitor and are assigned to a team with a partner, associate and trainee solicitor buddy. The buddy system helped me to settle in quickly and I was regularly invited for lunch and coffee with the other trainees. A typical day would include working alongside different members of the team; from assisting associates, drafting documents to attending client meetings with partners. I’m glad to say that a typical day as an intern and trainee solicitor are very similar but differ to the degree of responsibility and quality of work expected from the trainee as they progress in training. When I signed my training contract, my responsibility for handling matters increased rapidly over the months as my knowledge and confidence increased in these areas.
Why did you choose MHC for your internship?
From my first interview I felt that the interviewers had a genuine interest in what I had to say. I was also questioned about my extra-curricular activities and non-academic achievements. It was nice to know they were taking an interest in me as a person in addition to what I had achieved academically. Although the interview was challenging, I always felt at ease and that they wanted me to do well.
What sports/hobbies/pastimes do you enjoy? My favourite hobbies are CrossFit, cooking and reading.
I’ve been involved in sport from a young age. I joined Tae Kwon Do at the age of 8 and obtained my black belt prior to my Leaving Certificate. When college began, I joined the UCC Powerlifting club for four years. After graduation, my friend introduced me to CrossFit and I was instantly hooked! CrossFit is the type of sport that will push your limits again and again, with every class being more difficult than the last one. When I moved to Dublin I was fortunate enough to find a CrossFit gym close to my apartment, so I continue to go there 4-5 times per week now. After a long day at the office, preparing a home cooked meal is like therapy for me. I’m vegetarian so I’m adventurous when it comes to food and trying out new things. I recently made sweet potato falafels and jackfruit “pulled pork” burgers and they were delicious! During lockdown I started renting books from the local library so I’m currently reading anything from fiction novels to health and wellness books!
If I wasn’t a trainee solicitor, I would be...
A nutritionist / alternative medicine practitioner. My passion for cooking coupled with my interest in health and fitness has fuelled my interest in nutrition and naturopathy practices but I’ve always considered this to be a hobby.
“What’s for you won’t pass you” – is one of my favourite sayings. I believe it’s true.
One thing most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I have a black belt or that I’m 80% blind in my right eye since birth!
What was your first job?
My first job was in Hillbilly’s Fried Chicken at age 17. The steel toe cap boots still haunt me to this day!