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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Senior Management Group

Patricia O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs

Patricia  O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs

On 6 August 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Patricia O’Brien of Ireland as Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel. Ms. O'Brien, the first woman in this position in the history of the United Nations, will replace Nicolas Michel.

The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Michel’s committed service, tireless dedication, consistent professionalism, and profound integrity.

Ms. O’Brien, who brings to the job extensive experience of legal and international affairs, is eminently equipped to integrate the legal dimension in internal decision-making processes, promote the rule of law in international relations, and contribute to ensuring an end to impunity. As Legal Adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland since 2003, Ms. O’Brien has advised on legal issues arising in Irish foreign policy, in particular public international law, human rights law and European Union law. She previously served as a Senior Legal Adviser to the Irish Attorney General and as Legal Counsellor at the Irish Permanent Representation to the European Union, in Brussels. She has advised the Government of Ireland in legal proceedings before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice. She has also participated in expert legal meetings in the United Nations, Council of Europe and the European Union.

Earlier in her career, Ms. O’Brien practiced law at the Irish Bar (1979-1988) and for one year at the Bar of British Columbia, Canada. Between 1989 and 1992 she held academic positions at the University of British Columbia.

Ms. O’Brien earned a Bachelor of Arts (Mod) in legal science in 1978 and a Master of Arts in 1987 from Trinity College, Dublin; a Barrister-at-Law (BL) from Kings Inns, Dublin, in 1978 and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ottawa, Canada, in 1990. She is a member of the Irish Bar (1978) and of the Bar of England and Wales (1986). She is a Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London.

Born on 8 February 1957, Ms. O’Brien has three children.