This week in our MHC Life Series, we speak to Karen Clarke, Legal Secretary. Karen tells us about everything from her journey here, to a typical day and some very famous people she 'met'.
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey to MHC – what inspired you to get into this career?
To be honest I fell into law by accident. What started off as a part time job in a small firm of local solicitors, ended up with me, here, 20 years later! After working there for a few years I decided to move to Dublin, out of general practice and into commercial litigation, first in another law firm for 4yrs, and then the last 12yrs here. I really don’t know where the time goes, it doesn’t feel like half that.
I’m often asked by friends if ‘Suits’ is anything like ‘real life’ in a law firm. To which I reply “of course!” as they eye me with envy… it’s like I always say, why let the truth get in the way of a good story! I think it’s the Irish in me! They then often ask if I’m ‘Donna’. My reply is ‘sadly, I wish I had even half the clothes budget!’ Mmm, now I bet you’re wondering who is Louis, and Harvey, and Jessica.
Favourite thing about your role?
Working with the inimitable Declan Black of course! Wait. Does he read this? No? Ah ok then, delete that!
My favourite thing has to be the fact that my tasks/days are so diverse. I could be assisting Declan Black taking over the world (I’m Pinky, he’s The Brain, obviously), or Peter Johnston on his newest Commercial Court dispute, or Colin Monaghan on his (actually, you know, I’m not even going to pretend I know what he does!), or finding Maurice Phelan a new dog walker (the old one quit as apparently the ‘grounds’ of his new mansion were just too big! JOKING! Of course I’m joking…)
Talk us through a typical day for you
My life is chaotic, but in the best way. I have 2 boys aged 8 and 11 so I like to start my day early with coffee and Milo (the puppy), we clear our emails before Milo wakes the boys for school (top parenting tip – a furry alarm clock (Milo)). When I used to wake them, they would crawl out of bed like extras from The Walking Dead. I now shove a four-legged fluffball in and they troop out of their kid cave resembling the cast of The Sound of Music. Result!
Then follows an hour of me being told I’m awful (who knew you could ruin someone’s day by asking them to put socks on), school drop off, and then start work properly.
The evenings are a mix of homework, cooking food that nobody eats and copious activities before I blink, or at least that’s what it feels like, and it all starts again. Sounds like bliss, right? And that, my lovelies, is why you see so many bleary eyed parents plundering the wine aisle in Tesco as if Dale Winton just shouted ‘Supermarket Sweep’!
People who inspire me
I am inspired every day by all of the strong, smart, trailblazing women in the world. ALL of them. From Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Iris Apfel (wait, maybe I’m just into big glasses!). No, but seriously, it’s exciting to see more and more women in media, in politics, in finance, and holding some of the highest positions in business and most importantly here, in Mason Hayes & Curran. It’s difficult. It’s impressive. It’s crucial. And it’s inspiring to all of the little girls’ eyes watching them and seeing role models of the very best kind.
What books have you read recently?
During lockdown I was gifted two books from two different friends. One was ‘Run, Fat B*tch, Run’ by Ruth Field (yes, that’s a real book), and the other was Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. Clearly one friend thinks I need to sort out my body, and the other, well she clearly thinks I need to sort out my head. Not sure if that says more about my friends, or about me!
I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the running one, but that same friend called to my door, made me put on trainers there and then and taught me how to run. During lockdown it kept me sane. It became our therapy, and it still is. The Brene Brown book was eye opening for me. I love anything that gives me a new perspective on things, and on life. I’ve since read two more of her books and I’m currently on Rising Strong. Check out her TEDtalk, The Power of Vulnerability which has now had 57million views.
Have you met anyone famous?
Hmm ‘met’ is a very strong word isn’t it. I did chase Louis Walsh around the Four Seasons for a photo at Niamh Counihan’s wedding but I never actually got to ‘meet’ him. Trust me, he’s more nimble than he looks! Oh, I ‘met’ Will Smith in New York. Well, he was standing there, and I was standing there, that’s the same thing right? Gosh that sounds a lot like my recent dating history! Ah I’m only joking, dating in your 40s is like riding a bike. Except the bike is on fire, and the world is on fire, and wait, where was I going with this?
What's your idea of a perfect holiday?
I’m ADDICTED to travelling and seeing new places, the stranger the better. And I almost always fall in love with everywhere I go. I think even the ‘not so nice’ places have a certain charm. But a memorable one was definitely Amsterdam. We talked about it over dinner the night before we flew out and my then 3yr old mentioned how he couldn’t wait to see all the hamsters in Hamsterdam. Yup. H-Amsterdam. He couldn’t understand when we tried to say there were no hamsters in Amsterdam so we left him be, thinking he’d have forgotten it by the time we get there. Let’s all take a moment to laugh at my naivety.
Cut to our first day in H-Amsterdam. As we passed the flower market on the canal, I heard a shriek from the 3yr old, out he pops from behind a mountain of tulips with, wait for it, a 2ft high ceramic hamster! Deeeeelighted with himself. As you can imagine we had to buy said hamster. And carry it around all day. And allllllll the way home to Dublin. I’m sure Michael O’Leary brought his retirement plans forward when he saw us coming at the thought of our extra baggage allowance cost!