- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A., 1978, with highest honors)
- Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., 1983, with honors)
- District of Columbia and Virginia
- United States Supreme Court
- United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and District of Columbia Circuit
- United States District Courts for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia
- District of Columbia Court of Appeals
- Supreme Court of Virginia
Fern P. O'Brian specializes in legislative work, regulatory matters, and litigation before various federal and state courts and agencies in the areas of mass tort, products liability, class action, and regulatory litigation. She counsels and litigates on behalf of clients in matters concerning liability prevention, regulatory compliance, and liability-related transactional issues involving medical and pharmaceutical products, consumer products, and environmental exposures. In addition, she represents emerging technology companies and research organizations, assisting them in the development and commercialization of innovative consumer and life sciences products. Ms. O’Brian has led legal teams and managed outside and local counsel relationships on a variety of litigation, regulatory, and legislative matters. She has also played key roles on legislative and policy matters on behalf of life sciences and consumer product companies.
Among numerous other awards and recognitions, Ms. O’Brian was named "Product Liability Star" by LMG Life Sciences (2016). She was listed in the 2016 Expert Guides as a leading practitioner in Litigation and Product Liability and in Euromoney’s 2013 “Women in Business Law Expert Guide.” She has been recognized three years running by LMG Life Sciences as a “Star Attorney” in non-IP Litigation and, in 2018, LMG Life Sciences has again named her a "Life Sciences Star." She is listed in the Washington, DC edition of Super Lawyers.
Ms. O’Brian is a member of the American Law Institute; the Women in Law Empowerment Forum Global Advisory Board; the NanoBusiness Commercialization Association Advisory Board; and from 2009 to 2016 a member of the University Club of Washington, DC Board of Governors, where she also served as President of the Board of Governors in 2016. She previously served for ten years as Chair of the Board of Overseers at the Searle Civil Justice Institute at George Mason University Law School, and for five years as a board member of Tahirih Justice Center. Ms. O'Brian served as Managing Partner of the London office of a large international law firm, prior to which she was Chair of the Child Care Committee and led the development of one of the first on-site childcare centers in a private law firm. Before private practice, she served as a law clerk to The Honorable Kenneth W. Starr of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Ms. O’Brian is a frequent author and speaker on life sciences, products liability and mass tort issues.