Profile: Paula Fearon, McCann FitzGerald
The firm’s head of project services has seen her role evolve with the technology
Paula Fearon: “There is a huge amount of project management and people management, but there is a really healthy dose of law too”
Paula Fearon is head of project services at McCann FitzGerald, a role combining technology, law and project management which evolved during the time she has been involved in the firm. Fearon originally started with McCann FitzGerald after studying Law in Trinity College, and quickly found a niche.
“I joined the firm in 1999, I came straight out of college and I did my traineeship here. I knew relatively quickly that litigation was my main interest. I loved the diversity of it, that each case had a different set of facts, and potentially was in a different industry, but you had an underlying procedural framework to operate off,” she says.
From early on in her career within the litigation department, Fearon was involved in cases with large volumes of data and large requests for discovery. “It just happened that almost as early as 2002 or 2003, we started using e-discovery platforms to sift through the data quickly,” she says. “It was through luck rather than design that I ended up working on a number of projects that involved these really big volumes of discovery, and so I generated an area of expertise around these kind of projects.
“Largely because of the support I would have gotten from the litigation partners, I ended up being given custody of more and more big projects, and I began to develop a love for the area, the technology, the process, the procedural rules underlying the discovery,” she says.
‘Big data review projects’
Fearon joined the Project Services Group in 2016, when the group was formed. “My colleague and a partner at McCann FitzGerald, Karyn Harty, spotted the fact that we were doing this large-scale work so successfully in the litigation sphere, and that there was absolutely no reason why we couldn’t be specialising in the same way across other areas of the business. We basically devised a group that would specialise in big data review projects and I jumped at the chance to do this.”
There is always something dynamic in the work and I absolutely thrive on that
Heading up the Project Services Group provides a way for Fearon to stay connected to her training as a solicitor, while also using the wealth of knowledge and experience gained through working on big group projects. “I think that is why I love this so much,” she says. “There is a huge amount of project management and people management, but there is a really healthy dose of law too. My role is unique in that I am working on a huge array of projects. These can be across different areas like real estate, corporate, investigations and litigations. My role is unique in that way, because particularly in a big firm you tend to have people that work largely on their specialities, whereas I get to dip my toes in all of the areas. I get a huge amount of support from the firm, and there is so much thinking by the firm too.”
Day-to-day work for Fearon involves constant change, and can include working from the office in Dublin, travelling to meet with clients, or lecturing at conferences. The fact that there is dynamic change and constantly something new to learn is a driving force. “The reality is that from year to year we would never go about the project in the same way because a new way of thinking, or some new experience that we have gained, or some new technology will change the way we approach things. There is always something dynamic in the work and I absolutely thrive on that, the fact that I am problem-solving not just in a legal way, but in a practical way and in terms of the processes we use.”