Bailey Larsen was drawn to math for a simple reason: every problem has a correct answer.
So it was a natural choice for Larsen to pursue a career as an accountant. It was less obvious, however, to blend her math skills with a career in the law, where solutions to problems often cannot be boiled down to an irrefutable figure.
Larsen double majored as an undergrad in accounting and finance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, becoming a Certified Public Accountant in case she found she didn’t like law school. But she had always been interested in becoming an attorney, thanks in part to parents who told her she liked to argue, and her “badass” cousin, who is a criminal defense attorney.
After graduating from Marquette University Law School in 2013, she began working at Deloitte, a large accounting firm. After three years, though, she was drawn to a new opportunity in 2016, a job at Milwaukee firm Fox, O’Neill & Shannon, a “diamond in the rough” firm, she said.
It’s a job that demands dual expertise in accounting and law. She credits the help of her colleagues there with helping her make the leap.
“You learn what works and what doesn’t,” Larsen said. “I think the way that you balance that is by having great people around you, being able to lean on them when you have questions. I think that’s the way you master the grey area.”
It’s a position, also, that Larsen said has brought a wider breadth of work. At Fox, O’Neill & Shannon she advises corporate, charity and individual clients on the tax and business risks of succession plans and corporate transactions. She’s also developed an estate planning service at the firm, guiding clients through that process.
Larsen’s blend of skill as a CPA and attorney has helped clients weigh the tax implications of expanding their businesses, retain top talent and navigate financial disputes. In one case, she acted as a forensic accountant to assemble a defense of a client accused — and later acquitted by a jury — of embezzlement.
In another case, she drafted a memo on the tax implications of expanding a company’s warehouse business across state lines. The plan identified more than $1 million in potential tax savings.
During her time at Fox, O’Neill & Shannon, Larsen said she’s found mentors to help her grow. It’s the people at the firm that drew her there in the first place, she said, and it’s at the core of the lesson that she’d pass on to her younger self.
“Find and surround yourself with people that want you to succeed,” she said.