“Always look at it from the other person’s point of view – get into their shoes” – 60 seconds with Breen Purcell of Fieldfisher

60 Seconds With, Interviews | Tue 6 Dec | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Breen Purcell, Head of Fieldfisher LLP’s Real Estate Department in Dublin

Breen Purcell is Head of Fieldfisher LLP’s Real Estate Department in Dublin. Fieldfisher is a full service international law firm with 25 offices worldwide specialising in all major practice areas of law. 


What was your first job? 

I started my first job at 16 pushing a broom in the haberdashery department in Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt. When I started college, I would spend weekends working at my brother’s sandwich bar and worked in a newsagents in old Dun Laoghaire where I met the great and the good from all walks of life.  

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

Mainly due to parental encouragement from my father. He was a civil engineer who used to do a lot of accident reports for solicitors around town. He thought law was a terrific profession and one which I would be well suited to. He opened my eyes to the possibility as I initially didn’t study for a law degree, focusing on economics & politics instead.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

I have two, one is being a partner in an international law firm.  My late mother would have relished telling her pals about it over coffee. The second is being part of a great business success story. We started the firm with only three of us and the growth of the firm to what it is today – an office of over 120 staff in Dublin, and part of an international firm with 25 offices worldwide – is my greatest business achievement.

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

One of the key lessons I’ve learned is to surround yourself with good people who have expertise to learn from, rather than trying to do all the heavy lifting myself. There’s unlimited potential when you collaborate with the right people. If I were to relive my career, I would be less cautious about bringing on board specific expertise early in a potential growth area, rather than trying to build the foundation for that business myself.

In one sentence, how would you define success?

In business terms, it’s being able to go home after a full day’s work, knowing that you can sleep easily having done your best.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My father Brendan used to tell me to “Always look at it from the other person’s point of view – get into their shoes – it’s always a useful exercise, never wasted.” I’ve found that advice has allowed me to understand people and navigate some tough situations.

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

There are a few things I think are important when it comes to motivating those around you. I think your team always need to know that you’re present and there for them when difficult situations arise especially when remote working comes into play. It’s important to recognise hard work and praise colleagues when they go the extra mile. Understanding your team and their motivations is a crucial element especially when it comes to developing younger lawyers. It’s important not to assume too much when developing team members skills, especially younger members, actively listening and reviewing how they work is essential to understanding colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses.

How do you handle adversity? 

As with any business there’s always a bit of rough and tumble. Discussing problems with family, close friends and colleagues is extremely important. It’s amazing what perspective and wise counsel you can get, and it can come from the most unusual sources. 

How do you relax?

Being outdoors in the fresh air and in the company of a different group of people from my work life is a very relaxing experience for me. I do a lot of fishing up in the midlands – Lough Owel, Lough Ennell, etc It’s a different setting altogether and a great escape. It’s also nice to end those days with a glass or two of something nice to drink.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

To build on recent success and to continue the Irish and worldwide Fieldfisher business through encouraging talent, building a strong team and providing a quality service, where team members are as enthused as I am to push the practice forward and to progress their own careers within the firm. As a result of joining with Fieldfisher, our team now has exposure to a large number of international clients and the experience of working closely with them. This simply wouldn’t have happened without that international reach and network. I think this has been invaluable to younger lawyers joining the firm as they’ve gained a lot of experience in dealing with international businesses and organisations. I look forward to working with my colleagues and fellow partners to extend these opportunities in the years ahead.


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