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THE BRIEF DAY IN THE LIFE OF… Fiona Sutherland – co-founder and co-owner of MSA Law

Before work…

Since launching MSA Law at the beginning of October, I am finding that, as this is a new business, there’s no such thing as an average day. Working days are often longer but more flexible than in my previous “life” as a partner in a large corporate law firm.

I live in the Pennine Hills so on mornings when I don’t have meetings in Manchester or elsewhere, I may get up early and go for a run and then take my son to school before settling down to the day’s work in my office upstairs.

The working day…

Working from home requires discipline but being away from the distractions of a busy office means that once I shut my office door I find I can work very productively, provided that there is a plentiful supply of milky tea on tap!

I will speak frequently during the day to Bernard McIlroy, the co-founder and co-owner of MSA Law, to catch up, discuss current matters, forthcoming meetings and sometimes thorny technical issues. Our work can be complex by nature and two heads are often better than one, so we are frequent users of Facetime.

During the working day, I will typically deal with a mixture of client work and business administration. Client work is varied but usually relates to some form of organisational change. At the moment, I am working on the tax efficient partition of a family property company and the reorganisation of a company’s share capital in readiness for an exit. At other times, we might be looking at a private equity investment or employee share incentivisation.

In between this, I may be dealing with some of the more mundane aspects of working life – getting onto suppliers when phones or IT go wrong or re-ordering stationery supplies. It is exciting, interesting, sometimes exasperating but also highly rewarding to now be at the helm of a new venture and dealing with all aspects of running a small business. We’re finding that it helps enormously in understanding the issues and pressures that our clients deal with on a day to day basis. Also, I don’t miss the steady stream of internal meetings that used to eat into a large part of the working day.

Lunch is generally something light and if time permits (and the weather isn’t too appalling) I might take the dog out for a walk which is another benefit of being based at home! Some days Bernard and I will be out meeting clients and contacts and typically spend two or three days a week in Manchester or London. That will often mean lunch with clients or business contacts or, failing that, a quick bite to eat in a coffee shop. As a specialist corporate tax practice, our work comes from a number of sources including other law firms, clients who instruct us directly and referrals from other professionals, so there are always people to catch up with when we are out and about.


Evenings tend to be given over to spending time with my husband and son – or – more often than not – ferrying my son to an assortment of after school activities; although in the interests of journalistic accuracy I have to admit that my husband does the lion’s share of this! After dinner, I may find myself upstairs again at my computer as it’s sometimes hard to switch off from working life when your office is just at the top of the stairs!

About MSA Law:

Bernard McIlroy and Fiona Sutherland set up MSA Law in 2012 having worked together as partners in both national and international law firms for a number of years. MSA Law is a specialist tax law firm with a focus on advice to companies, owner managed businesses and the individuals behind them on the tax issues associated with organisational change. Further details can be found at www.msalaw.co.uk

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