Converting Adversity into Fuel

Last year, life-threatening surgery at the end of February, followed by a global pandemic, followed by a third business merger, was how 2020 evolved for me.

Open Heart Surgery is a true test of faith, no paying lip service as you lie awake looking at the ceiling the night before an eight-hour operation, negotiating with God with strength you never thought you had about a trade for your life! Looks like my negotiations were successful so far!

To put matters in context, in understanding where you have to climb back from, on my first day of discharge from ICU, a lady from hospital catering kindly brought me a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit. I eventually managed to lean forward to reach it, but at that point realised that I simply did not have the strength to lift the cup. That was a low moment, but it also armed me with the resolve: Susanna, you CAN do this! And day by day I have become stronger. Currently, I can run 18 minutes on a treadmill and I walk approximately 7 kilometres every day. Each mini-milestone is a triumph that I privately celebrate. Though an overused term, I know, but I truly understand the meaning of “Carpe Diem”. I have taken up sea swimming and golf.

At work, I have finally learned to delegate successfully after 23 years of practising law. The elusive four-day week that I had promised myself for 23 years is now a reality. I take some form of exercise every morning and take pride in the fact that I rarely get into the office before 10 am. I have served in the trenches. Now is MY time and I take Friday off and do ME stuff. Even during pandemic times, ME stuff can be simple — a walk, favourite food, gardening, a book, a movie or a little online shopping!

The worry of finances, will our business survive Covid? Will I be a Zoom idiot? Will there be a recession? I can’t pair my laptop with my home wifi! I hope the client didn’t hear my dog barking. You have to remind yourself: I am alive, I am happy, I am warm and safe, and actually nothing else matters.

I feel I have been able to apply these life experiences to our business and to allow the people in it to grow and to accept the fact that, sometimes, you have to let 10 things be done at 94% rather than 4 things be done at 100%.

The highs and lows of the various mergers, financial, HR, voluminous files, governance, “buy in” of clients / staff, “who moved my cheese” – motivational business fable recommended to me by a Timoney Alumnus (thank you, Barry), collaboration, sharing of knowledge and expertise which brings economies of scale and better service, improved systems, constant review of work allocations, phone call logs and monitoring.

I have no formal management training, save for the Timoney Leadership Institute and completing the 2015 ALP, which gave me the idea for collaboration as applied to professional services, which is not a well-worn path in the legal world.

No amount of local newspaper advertisements or Google ads compare to the business development created through a local merger or acquisition.

We have amazing staff, loyal, talented, extremely hard-working, forward-thinking, with a “hands to the pump” attitude that has never been so evident as it has been in the last year during both my illness and Covid.

After a merger, it can be a challenge to find the right recipe to gel everyone together and work collaboratively, given the different personality traits and professional methods. Us lawyers are a pompous lot, and we often think it’s “our way or no other”. But we also forget that lawyers date back to Plato and Socrates. Allowing the team to do the job and trusting them is so important in a leadership role.

Again, it is important to never stop learning and to allow those around you the opportunity to learn and further develop their skills and knowledge.

To survive and to be alive at all is an immense privilege for which I will be forever indebted to Prof. Mark Redmond.

My husband and my children also deserve mention. I am a rather unaccepting, reluctant invalid, but ironically the first lockdown, while I was recovering, was undoubtedly the most wonderful time we have had together, and Boy, did we relish every second!



If anyone has questions, please feel free to email me at

If you would like to listen to a Timoney podcast interview with Susanna on our podcast channel, you can access it here