Shonaig qualified and practiced as a solicitor in the City of London and in Scotland, specialising in advising companies whose core asset is intellectual property. During her legal career Shonaig worked for Sir Terence Conran, established the in-house legal department of Harrods and advised the Albrecht family on the establishment of Aldi in the UK. Her legal career culminated in her appointment as Senior Partner of McGrigors now Pinsent Mason and she retired from the law in 2004.
Since then Shonaig has undertaken several non-executive roles including as Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, The Princes Trust, The Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
With a strong commitment to education, Shonaig has served on the governing bodies of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Open University, Heriot Watt University and Edinburgh Business School.
Shonaig was appointed as the first ever non-executive appointee to the Management and Strategic Boards of Scottish Government where she became the first lay person to chair its Audit Committee. From 2015 until 2020 she was Lead Non-Executive Member of the Management Board of the Office of Secretary of State for Scotland and the Office of the Advocate General. She was a member of the UK Government and Scottish Parliament’s Commission on Scottish Devolution, the Scottish Executive’s Culture Commission and its Knowledge Economy Task Force.
Shonaig is currently chair of the Robertson Trust, the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, the Advisory Panel of Quilter Cheviot CAIF, a trustee of the SCO Trust and President of SCDI.