This week in our MHC Life Series, we hear from Áine Quirke, a Senior Associate in our Privacy and Data Security team. Áine chats about her journey to law, a typical day and a famous person she didn't meet while living in New York.
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey to MHC – what inspired you to get into this career?
Although I knew I wanted to be a lawyer from quite a young age, I very much took the scenic route to MHC and being a solicitor.
After graduating from Business and Law in UCD, I first qualified as a Barrister and then moved to Chicago to undertake an LLM at The University of Chicago and sit the NY bar exam. I had the opportunity to extend my visa for a year so I threw caution to wind and moved to New York with no job and no money. Happily it all turned out well in the end.
When I came home, I did a brief stint at another Irish law firm before receiving some very helpful guidance from a senior partner at MHC. Before long I had joined the privacy and data security team here. At the time I was not quite sure what the acronym ‘GDPR’ stood for but was eager to learn and that soon changed!
Favourite thing about your role?
Data protection seems to be a marmite area of law for many people- you either enjoy it or avoid it. Fundamentally it is based on principles so there are a lot of grey areas which means there is ample scope for interpretation, clever legal arguments and advocacy; all aspects of the job that I get great satisfaction from.
On a day-to-day basis the work is both varied and challenging, no two problems are the same. Our team works with some of the world’s biggest tech companies and it can be pretty exciting working on new features before they get rolled out or market moving regulatory enforcement and litigation. Tasks often touch on the big issues society is grappling with: freedom of expression vs. misinformation, encryption vs. combatting bad actors. Don’t get me wrong, getting a phone call about a data breach late on a Friday evening is less than ideal but on the whole I find it a very enjoyable area of law.
Talk us through a typical day for you
Since working from home became the new normal, a morning walk has become a non-negotiable. So after my other non-negotiable - a cup of coffee - I’m normally up and out the door by 8 am. We live quite close to the Dodder River walk which makes for a relaxing start to the day and after checking in on the ducks, I’m home again for our daily team meeting at 9.15 am. After that, I try to organise my to-do list for the day and touch base with the team members I’m working with. I miss the office chats and think a lot of learning happens informally, so I make a point of phoning colleagues to chat through tasks rather than firing off emails. Inevitably something urgent crops up and the day turns into a sprint to the end.
What books have you read recently?
Escaping into a good book is one of my favourite things to do. If it’s very good, I become antisocial and will happily cancel plans as I try to do tasks one handed so I can get to the next page. I don’t discriminate between genres and will read pretty much anything including plenty of light-hearted fluff. Given everything going on in the world at the moment, I’ve been reading a lot of geopolitics. Prisoners of Geography and Power of Geography by Tim Marshall are both fascinating reads.
Have you ever met anyone famous?
I’ve met quite a few famous people. How the one famous person I had a serious fan girl moment over, I couldn’t say I technically ‘met’ them. While in New York, I managed to get a ticket to see President Barack Obama address the UN General Assembly. That was a real ‘pinch me’ moment.