By Emmett Fitzpatrick
Mark McNabola has helped his clients receive hundreds of millions of dollars from verdicts and settlements over his more than three decades of practicing law in Chicago. He has served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University School of Law and was the youngest recipient of the Trial Lawyer Excellence award from the Jury Verdict Reporter in 2011.

How has he been able to achieve this success? McNabola points to his competitive spirit, his faith, and his family, all the way back to Irish ancestry on both sides of his lineage.

Mark McNabola’s Story 
“If is correct, I’m about as Irish as one could get,” said McNabola, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of his ancestors’ history from Ireland to Chicago. His family on his mother’s side came to Chicago prior to the Chicago Fire, and his great uncle – Fr. John Smith – was a Vincentian priest from County Cavan who founded the St. Vincent DePaul church in Lincoln Park in 1890. Fr. Smith also helped to start St. Vincent University, which ultimately became DePaul University at the turn of the century; in fact, the land where the Lincoln Park campus sits was once called “Father Smith Farm.”

This legacy formed a lasting connection with the school that McNabola carries to this day, as a dual degree holder from DePaul and current parishioner at St. Vincent DePaul in Lincoln Park. Other ancestors on his mother’s side include McNabola’s Great Grandfather, Tom Tully, also from County Cavan, who became a Chicago Police Lieutenant, his Grandfather, Edward Trainor, an auto dealer on Motors Row in Chicago, and his brother, Monsignor Harold Trainor, who served at St. Philip Neri Church and as President of Catholic Charities during the depression, as well as his sister, Sister Petronilla, who taught at Mercy High School in Chicago, among many other doctors, lawyers, and firefighters in the extended family. “I believe that the religious members including Monsignor Trainor and the other priests and nuns in our family created a foundation of great faith and built a core understanding of what’s important in life,” McNabola shared. “How you should behave, and how you should take care of others and the poor. This came directly from our Irish ancestors. It was a beautiful life they led.” 

Mr. McNabola’s paternal Grandmother came from County Mayo and his Grandfather, a Dublin police officer, came from County Leitrim. They emigrated to the United States in 1917, coming through Ellis Island, before first meeting through the Irish network on the West Side of Chicago. 

Mark McNabola was born the third of five children in what he describes as a loving family. McNabola’s father attended De La Salle High School and DePaul University, where he was a member of the 1945 National Championship basketball team, then went on to Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, where he trained to be a surgeon.  His father worked hard as a doctor, spending time getting to know his patients and their families.  

Mark’s mother “ran the home” and showed her five children the importance of the church and taking care of others. “My mother took care of people on the outskirts. She was a daily communicant. We always had people in our home that our mom met mostly at Church and brought home because they were alone,” McNabola recalled, noting that he and his siblings have carried on this spirit of welcoming generosity today.

His brother, John McNabola, runs Center of Concern, a local charitable organization that provides housing solutions, support services, and counseling for older adults, people with disabilities, and others in need. 

Mark McNabola’s Professional Career and Successes as a Lawyer
McNabola received 20 years of Catholic education at LaLumiere and Loyola Academy before carrying on the DePaul family tradition, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1981 and law degree in 1985, with a brief stop at Trinity College Dublin, where he studied abroad during law school.

Upon his law school graduation, McNabola took a job as a prosecutor before joining a personal injury firm, where he began racking up an impressive streak of jury victories inside the courtroom.

He then started his own firm – the McNabola Law Group – where he continues to serve as partner today. The firm’s mission is to help individuals and families who have suffered serious or catastrophic injuries or the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another, and browsing its website will tell readers all they need to know about the incredible successes that he and his small team have achieved over the years. According to that site, they boast a 98% victory rate and collectively have covered $550 million in verdicts and settlements.

And yet, beyond the monetary figures, McNabola sees his career as an extension of his family’s commitment to others.  “Once I entered into law school, and then joined the field of personal injury law, I realized how good people can quickly be devastated through no fault of their own. It’s random, and it’s tragic, and they need someone to fight for them, from legal to financial to psychological to emotional.

When I started working, I was humbled by how fortunate and blessed we are, and how our work can directly help other people in a very impactful way.” Given the intensely emotional nature of the cases that McNabola tries, he acknowledges the weight and importance of his role in helping families through the most difficult challenges that they will face. He points to one example of a case in which he represented a young family who lost their 17-year-old daughter in a horrific incident when they had experienced car trouble while driving across the country and were forced to stop on the side of the road. A Greyhound bus crashed into a car, causing it to spin out of control and ultimately fatally hitting the young woman.

“We become so close to our clients because we interact with them so often prior to and during the trial,” he noted. “I am proud of what we accomplish, but it’s bittersweet. You have your own children and you empathize with the mental anguish and torture that the parents who have lost their children have to endure.”

Outside of his professional life, McNabola continues to carry on his family’s legacy of providing leadership through a number of charitable causes, including the aforementioned St. Vincent DePaul, Archdiocese of Chicago, Center of Concern, DePaul University, Boys Hope Girls Hope, and the Irish Fellowship Club, where he has served as Executive Board Member.

He looks forward to passing on that legacy to his four children, whom he has raised with his wife Eileen. “My mother would say, God has blessed you with these advantages, and you have to use them to change the world to make it a better place. I’ve had a great education, a stable family, good brothers and sisters. If I don’t do it, who else is going to? I feel fortunate and empowered to be in a place to help people. That’s what the Irish do.”