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Deirdre O’Brien comes from Tullow, a wee place along Ireland’s Slaney River with a statue in the town square of an Irish priest from the 18th century whose rude demise gave rise to the expression “Holy smoke!” For taking fierce exception to the English legal establishment of his day, Father John Murphy was stripped, flogged, hanged and decapitated. His corpse was then burned in a barrel of tar. Authorities required all windows of Catholic homes to be flung open so that a permeation of the fumes would serve as an object lesson in the wages of perfidy. The frightful lesson, however, did not deter Ms. O’Brien from a grand idea: to right some of the many wrongs of her own day, she would become an attorney. Little did she know at the outset that the idea would take her from a tiny village to the Irish capital, to England, to Australia, back home to Ireland — and eventually to hanging her shingle in New York City. But she decided on patience as a guiding principle — that and the value of youthful travel. So when she came of age, and after rigorous schooling at the convent of the Sisters of St. Brigid of Tullow, O’Brien traveled 60 miles north across the Wicklow Mountains to Trinity College in Dublin — another Irish planet entirely. After four years at Trinity, she began her quest by completing the necessary apprenticeship in — of all places — England. O’Brien joined a London firm and there handled matters of real estate, human rights and criminal law. It was the last area of practice that gave her pause. “They weren’t helping themselves,” O’Brien said, with reference to the defense of the coarser breed of evil-doers. “I thought about getting a gun and shooting those types.” And so, back home to Ireland, where she worked for a firm in Cork. “It rains there incessantly,” said O’Brien. “That was my low point.” Better opportunity came soon in Kildare. But still, “It’s very tough in Ireland, and it’s particularly hard for women,” said O’Brien. “The law is divided between solicitors, who are administrators, and the barristers who get all the glory. “I found it all so tedious and restrictive.” And so, off to Australia. “It was the fashionable place to go at the time,” she said. “I was a bit of a beach bum, I admit, but I did handle a few legal matters.” Not quite enough of these matters, however, to make a go of it as a lawyer in Oz. Back to Ireland, and a stay for awhile in what passes for a metropolis in her native County Carlow — the Town of Carlow, population 11,271. “It’s like having to be family to everybody,” O’Brien said of the Carlow town period. She added, characteristically, “I had reached the point where I decided that I needed to take a new direction in my career.” And so — with great thanks to winning a green card in the immigration lottery — off to America in the year 1995, with the plucky O’Brien freshly 32 years of age. “Well, I was really surprised how closed the shop was,” she said. “I suppose I was quite na�ve coming here thinking I’d be an attractive commodity, what with going to Trinity and speaking very good French. “I expected to be snapped up. But I wasn’t,” said O’Brien. “In the interview process, it was all about New York experience. If you didn’t have any, they [law firms] weren’t interested. Or they’d want to send you straight back to the beginning.” Then there was the difficulty of her curriculum vitae. Back home, O’Brien explained, “It’s frowned on to be too self-promoting. Really, the typical American r�sum� could stand a drop or two of realism.” Daily life in the ruckus of Manhattan only added to the dilemma of being a well-educated but un-snapped-up young attorney. SETTING UP SHOP From saving up a bit of money from survival work in the travel business, she managed to set up shop on her own in ’97 at a building across the way from Federal Plaza. There, and with the help of the considerable number of Irish nationals in New York and a few business connections from overseas, she gradually built up a varied practice now called O’Brien & Associates, meaning herself and “my little network” of case-by-case free-lance lawyers. Along the way, she met a Yank in the high-tech business by the name of Tom Peterson. O’Brien fell in love, to the extent that on the Tuesday morning of Sept. 11, 2001, she found herself in the downtown bargain emporium of Century 21, shopping for a few last items of trousseau before that evening’s Aer Lingus flight that would whisk her home for the big family wedding in Tullow one week hence. “When the first one hit, we continued on shopping,” O’Brien recalled of the initial crash of a terrorist-hijacked plane. “We thought it was an accident, although the clerks were getting jumpy. “Then the second one hit, and the building shook violently. I thought it was collapsing on me. I threw down my armload of clothes and ran.” The Aer Lingus departure was canceled, of course, and the wedding was off. But then come Saturday, O’Brien’s mother rang up on the phone from the other side, very early in the morning, with news of two flight reservations — that very night, arriving Sunday. And so, the wedding was back on for Tuesday the 18th. “We were in a bit of a rush,” said O’Brien. “I’m afraid I never got the beauty sleep I’d planned on the night before my wedding.” She and her Yank honeymooned in Italy. Among other things, O’Brien reflected on the events of Sept. 11, and on the various adventures of her globe-trotting life, and on her lawyerly quest. “I envy anybody who’s traveling to study or work while they’re young,” she recalled deciding. “It’s fantastic. You think you know it all, but you don’t. Traveling, you meet people and have experiences that are spontaneous and wonderful. “There’s no need to know exactly what it is you want to do right away. There’s no need to prematurely tie yourself down.” On her return, it happened: O’Brien found her calling. That is to say, a group of Irish expatriates called O’Brien, seeking justice for the New York investment broker who slicked them out of their savings. “I’m very excited about this,” said O’Brien. Indeed, she enlisted an ally in her cause: Daniel R. Solin, a solo attorney who specializes in securities fraud. “I’m a big fan of Deirdre’s. She shares with me a passion for the underdog,” said Solin. “I am so impressed by her dedication, and her caring, her passion, her charm and her perseverance — all the traits you’d like to think lawyers should have.” No doubt about it, O’Brien is now, in the words of the Irish writer Brendan Behan, “the flea what found his dog,” by setting her sights on securities fraud. “You shouldn’t regret anything,” said O’Brien. “Whatever you did in life put you where you are now, and I’m very happy where I am, thank you.”

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