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Finance Jobs in Ireland: profile of a financial services lawyer Back
A lawyer working in financial services needs to be able to think laterally, says Michael Barr, a partner with A&L Goodbody, as 'clients do not want just a legal answer but rather someone who will work with them to get their product into the market in a successful and cost effective way'. Other attributes required include being able to take in and understand quickly new concepts and ideas, and the ability to work well with people at all levels within an organisation, to get the deal done.
What is your educational background? I have a BCL from University College Dublin and also spend a year studying in Universit? de Nancy II. Following college I qualified as a solicitor in the Law Society of Ireland. I was in secondary school in Clongowes Wood College in Kildare.

What has been your career path to date? I qualified as a solicitor with A&L Goodbody in 1997. I worked in the firm’s corporate department on a wide variety of different matters. Gradually I focused on IT, mergers and acquisitions and inward investment. As I progressed through the firm, mergers and acquisition work became more of a focus for me, while continuing to work on the inward investment side. It is through both of these areas that I came in contact with mutual funds work, and with our funds unit going from strength to strength it was an area that interested and attracted me. As a result I was delighted to take the opportunity to move into our funds unit when the opportunity arose.

Are you peers in similar backgrounds? My partners are from a variety of backgrounds and that has helped to create the dynamic forward looking firm that we have. Most would have done law as a primary degree, but more and more now, we see the profession attracting people from other areas, and this diversity can only help the firm.
Michael Barr

Have you worked abroad? If so where and what did you do? Would you like to do so again? I worked in our London office for a short while which was a very enjoyable rewarding experience. I worked as part of our general corporate team there. With family ties now firmly in Dublin, I do not envisage a move abroad any time soon, but you can never totally rule these things out.

How would you compare career prospects internationally to those in Ireland? The funds industry in Ireland is going from strength to strength, and I do not see a let-up in that. Ireland is a very attractive location for both funds and service providers. As a result career prospects will always be good for those who are innovative and willing to work hard.

Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role? I have been very lucky to be assisted by Paul Dobbyn, the senior retiring member of our funds unit, who has brought me up to speed quickly with the area and the key legal and commercial issues that clients face. In addition, we have a structured professional development programme in the firm to ensure that we are kept up to date with all relevant legal developments. This is critical in a business that is constantly changing and adapting.

What skills/aptitudes would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector? It is important to be innovative and willing to think laterally. Clients do not want just a legal answer but rather someone who will work with them to get their product into the market in a successful and cost effective way. Being able to take in and understand quickly new concepts and ideas is also critical in this regard. Finally it is important to be able to work well with people at all levels within an organisation to get the deal done.

What aspects of the job do you like the most? I like working with people, understanding what they need and addressing that as quickly and as efficiently as possible. When this is done successfully there is a great feeling of satisfaction. You know you’ve done a good job when your client comes back to you again. The variety of work that can hit the desk also keeps me interested and motivated.

What aspects of the job do you like the least? There is an awful lot of paper that needs to be managed. Even when a commercial deal has been reached there is quite a bit of work left to get the matter over the line. This aspect is important and needs to be carefully managed but does not have the same attraction of helping to get a commercial idea off the ground.

How do you find success in your sector? Clients are the ultimate arbiters and having a strong repeat client base is critical. From a personal level, being able to achieve this while making time for yourself, and your family, is the overall goal.

Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry? There are a number of people throughout the industry that I admire. The funds industry has grown from nothing to a vibrant successful industry in a relatively short period of time and that has been down to the hard work and dedication of many people. I have had the pleasure of working with some of them both as colleagues and clients that it would be hard to single out one in particular and probably an injustice to the others to do so.

What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector? The funds industry is a young and dynamic business. It will provide the rewards and the challenges that any ambitious young person seeks. I would encourage people to work hard and get a place on a training programme in a firm that can offer them a bit of diversity and will not pigeon hole them into one area too quickly. Being able to bring experience from a number of areas of law will be very helpful in the future and one should not specialise too early. Once qualified as a solicitor, people should look to continue learning particularly from their colleagues and peers. If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that you never stop learning.

In what areas are there most opportunities in Ireland? The funds industry is a growing business and there are opportunities for people through all aspects of it. Certainly from a legal perspective we are always looking out for dynamic hard working people who want to make a difference. It is a rewarding career and one that I am glad to have pursued.
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