In the next interview from our MHC Life series, we chat to Dispute Resolution Partner, Muireann Dennehy. Muireann tells us about her former life as a classical violinist and how working in an airport helped perfect her art of negotiation.
What inspired you to venture on this career path/why did you choose law?
I accidentally happened upon law. At 16, I moved to France to study violin performance and decided on a career as a classical violinist. I had a place at the Royal College of Music in London, but developed tendonitis in my wrists just before my leaving cert exams. My parents, both being teachers, had insisted that I fill out the CAO forms. They told me to pick something ‘very broad’. In hindsight, it all worked out for the best. There is little about my career that I would change. Law has taken me all around the world and allowed me to help people in a way that would not have been possible through music alone.
I studied international criminal and humanitarian law at Columbia in New York. Alongside my coursework, I interned at the Mission of the Bahamas to the UN. That provided me incredible exposure to the UN and its work which I was determined to revisit once qualified as a lawyer. In 2012, I moved to The Hague. I joined the ICTY as a prosecutor. I spent two years immersed in the history, culture and political architecture that gave rise to war crimes committed in the Balkans. My last appearance in Court was to lead the testimony of a rape survivor. Her story will always stick in my mind. As will the big warm hug she gave me and the tears that we both shed. While the wrongs committed against her will never be erased, that day, I paid homage to her story, gave her a voice and helped her transform from victim to survivor. That day, I helped to deliver justice.
Career advice I would give.....
Follow your gut and your heart and don’t dwell too much on what the naysayers have to say.
What sports/hobbies/pastimes do you enjoy?
When I moved back to Dublin, one of my priorities was a place near the sea. I love cycling to work on the seafront, even in the pouring rain. My brother is a former pro kite-surfer and I’m his worst student, but he keeps trying in exchange for free babysitting. I’m also a very keen skier. I used to kickbox and since joining MHC have taken up boxercise – there are few other places you can punch your colleagues with impunity!
I hadn’t realised that moving home would mean being able to go to equestrian events as part of my job, which makes me extremely happy. My first trip to Punchestown was the best business development event to which I’ve ever been. I absolutely adore horses, but having lived in London for so long meant it was impossible to get to the countryside to ride. I now live within a 20 minute drive to stables and get out most weekends.
If I wasn’t a law firm partner, I would run a shelter for dogs and horses
What was your first job?
I waitressed as my first job, but it only lasted an hour. I was quickly moved to the bar where I had better luck. I bartended most of my way through college and the summers in between. Beyond the tips and banter, bartending and my other incidental jobs taught me invaluable life lessons. The summer following 9/11, I worked at the lost baggage counter in Logan airport in Boston. It was a masterclass in placating very angry people. I learned how to negotiate calmly even when in difficult circumstances. I still recall the time I had to mop out the loos after a very busy evening in a pub at the height of the summer heat in Dublin. It was a week before I began my final year at Trinity. That night, the loos bore a particularly heady and noxious perfume. While wiping my brow and trying not to breathe, I promised myself that I'd work hard. Those part time and incidental jobs teach you the soft skills that make a successful lawyer.
We are always interested in hearing from talented and experienced lawyers at all levels who are looking to relocate to Dublin.