This week in our MHC Life series, we speak to Patrick O'Connor, a Senior Associate on our Pensions team. Patrick talks us through a typical day of a Pensions lawyer, and his favourite holiday destinations.
Tell us a bit about you and your career journey to MHC – what inspired you to get into this career?
I enjoyed Business and History in school and law seemed like a good option for my inclinations. Certain movies and TV shows were an inspiration as well such as adaptions of John Grisham books like the Rainmaker and the Practice (if anyone remembers that show!). My older brother qualified as a solicitor around that time as well, so that was a definite influence. I did a BCL in UCC and followed that up with a Masters in Commercial Law (LLM) in UCD the following year.
I qualified in early 2010 - probably not the greatest time in history to qualify as a solicitor! Some of the work I was exposed to as a trainee made me really interested in the financial crisis, particularly in respect of how banks had been classifying assets. I was inspired to make something of a lateral move in 2011 and worked in wealth management and private banking for 4 years. While working in banking was a great experience, including picking up a lot about pensions and estate planning, I realised that a return to practicing law made more sense and so in 2015 I moved to an in-house position with Independent Trustee Company Limited. Four years later the chance to return to private practice with the MHC Pensions team arose and it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up!
I think my career highlight to date would be a very successful, and still ongoing, secondment with a very well-known life office. It's been a great learning experience on the pensions regulatory side of things and the client has been very satisfied with the advice provided by the Pensions team as well as my own work with them. Last year we assisted the business in setting up two master trusts which will be the life office's main pension vehicles for years to come. This year I've continued to advise the business on its compliance with the new pension regulations as well as moving its existing pension book into the new master trusts. It was a great win for MHC to get the instruction back in February 2022 and I think we've developed a very strong relationship with the client's legal team and pension units.
Talk us through a typical day for you
On my MHC days I'm up around 6.45 to make some breakfast and start my commute. My commute is generally over an hour and the majority of it is on foot. I get a coffee on the way and I arrive in the office around 8.30.
Unsurprisingly my day involves everything, and all things pension related and it does vary a lot. One day I might be reviewing, drafting, and amending a pension scheme's governing documents, or its service level agreements. The next day it might be assisting a client with a Pensions Authority investigation or an FSPO (Financial Service & Pensions Ombudsman) complaint. We also do a lot of advisory work, particularly for scheme trustees and employers on their duties under pensions legislation and Revenue requirements.
I'm on secondment for two days a week with the life office and that generally means working from home, bar certain exceptions.
When I'm in the office, I generally try to leave at a reasonable hour so my wife and I can have dinner together and I get the opportunity to listen to her about her day…I'm rarely afforded the same privilege for some reason!
What sports/hobbies/pastimes do you enjoy?
I played football and basketball in school. I won a regional championship with the school basketball team in my leaving cert year and went on to play for the intervarsity basketball team in UCC. My first love as a past time has always been music and playing the electric guitar. I've been playing for 25 years and have always found it to be a great way to relax as well as allowing the mind to focus on something different for an hour or two. I started out as mostly a rock and blues player, but my playing has changed over the years…I'm now inclined to dabble in jazz arpeggios and fusion licks as well. I'm not in a band at the moment but working on that.
I enjoy watching Ireland and Munster rugby, Kerry football as well as the NFL. Watching Dublin dominate in the football over the last 12 years or so has been very frustrating, I can't deny it
What books have you read recently?
"The Storm Before the Storm" by Mike Duncan and "Twilight Cities" by Katherine Pangonis. I really enjoy narrative histories like these, anything by Tom Holland as well. I'm currently reading "The Fed and Lehman Brothers" by Laurence Ball (again back to my interest in the financial crisis but this could be a snorefest for some people!). It's a great read and it really questions a lot of the assumptions people made about why Lehman was allowed to fail.
What's your idea of a perfect holiday/favourite place you've ever visited?
We've been on holidays to Italy a few times since the pandemic ended and have had a great time there. They're very different places but it would be a toss-up between Sorrento and Florence for me. Edinburgh is great around the Holidays as well if it isn't too busy.
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