Lawyer-Alumni profile: John Taylor (Political Science ‘08, Suffolk Law ‘11)

This is the first in a series of profiles of lawyer-alumni, in which I’ll ask attorneys to respond to questions about their career paths.  If you’re an alum who’d like to be profiled, please just send me an email.  You don’t have to still be practicing law!  In fact, it would be very helpful for prospective law students to hear not just from happy and successful attorneys, but also from those who have left practice, or who are not as satisfied as they thought they would be.  For more contacts with our lawyer-alumni, join the UMass Amherst Lawyer-Alumni and Pre-Law Network.

John Taylor
Managing Partner
Tay-Law: The Law Office of John Taylor

What’s your current position and primary practice field(s)?
Currently I’m engaged in “solo practice” in Massachusetts. I started my firm “Tay-Law: The Law Office of John Taylor” after passing the Massachusetts Bar. I’ve found the term “solo practice” to be a bit misleading; personally, I have been very lucky to develop a network of smart and dedicated colleagues who I work with on mostly civil matters. I have experience in Employment Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution,Tort Law, Family Law and some Landlord and Tenant Disputes.

How did you get here – what led you to this field and practice setting?
I knew early on at UMASS that I was interested in going to law school. I loved all my Political Science classes and wanted to find a way to understand the correlation between history, the formation of government and the evolution of modern legal principles. I was lucky enough while at UMASS to take an “Advanced Constitutional Law” class, which was formatted similarly to a first year law school class. While I found the workload to be a little intense compared to what I had been used to, I found the cases and topics we discussed to be very interesting. This was a confirmation for me that I was headed down the right path.

The rest, as they say, is history. I applied and was accepted to Suffolk University Law School. While in law school I developed a special fondness for being in a courtroom setting and decided that I would try and find a job out of law school that would allow me to be in court as much as possible.

When I graduated from school and passed the bar, the job market was not stellar (a position it continues to hold). I found my opportunities to get into court to be few and far between, so I decided that if no one had an opportunity to let me do what I loved, I would make the opportunity myself!

Starting a law firm is not for the faint of heart. The work and dedication required to be successful is far and above that of the normal career of a lawyer, but the rewards for doing everything yourself are that much sweeter.

Describe a typical day/week – what are the kinds of tasks you engage in on a regular basis?
A typical day for me involves a lot of communicating back and forth with colleagues and clients. I’m usually sending out emails trying to coordinate various events that take place during a lawsuit, like depositions or meetings. I’m also constantly writing and editing.

That’s one thing I’ll say I never understood while at UMASS about being a lawyer: as a professional writer and presenter, your job is to write something once and then proceed to edit it seven or even eight times. In many instances, I almost completely re-work it in order to turn it into something great. I don’t care whether I’m writing a client memo, an email or a motion to dismiss; if I’m writing it, you can be sure it’s been edited several times. It’s this step that takes up a lot of time during my typical week.

How many hours/week do you work? How’s that work/life balance thing working out foryou?
I usually work from 8am to 6pm. My firm is set up as a virtual office so I primarily work out of my home; if I need space to meet clients, etc., I find places in and around the city, which is generally more convenient for my clients and helps to keep costs down. If I’m busy, I usually find myself back in my home office working late at night. For me, this works, because most of the work I do I really enjoy. If I’m working a lot, it usually means that business is booming, which is always a good thing. On a normal week I probably put in about 50+ hours.

What do you like most about what you do?
The thing I enjoy the most about my job is my ability to impact other people’s lives. Meeting with a lawyer is usually not a happy time for most of my clients. The dispute that brought them to a conversation with me is usually incredibly stressful or emotional for them. When I can ease their pain or lighten their load after these traumatic experiences, it makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile.

What do you wish you could change?
This is a bit of a broad question, but I’ll answer it in a legal sense. I wish I could improve the public’s knowledge/perception of the importance of our legal system. Most people fear what they don’t understand, and sadly I think many people fear our nation’s legal system.

The law is a complicated for anyone, attorneys included, and because of that many people tend to immediately fear or conjure negative sentiments when it comes to our nation’s courts. I wish I could find a way to help them understand what a great tool the law is and the impact that lawyers and lawsuits have had on society in the past 100 years. If people only realized that many of the products they use every day have been made safer as a result of someone sticking up for themselves in the courts years ago, maybe they would take the time to look at the courts as a great tool rather than just generally viewing the courts as a problem.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope my firm is thriving. My goal is to expand my firm so that its philosophy of providing exceptional, yet affordable, legal services can begin to break down the current system which favors wealth above all else.

Where did you go to law school? What’s your favorite memory from law school?
I went to Suffolk University Law School. My favorite memory wasn’t in a classroom and can’t be summarized in one particular instance, mainly because my favorite memory involves all of the great friends I made while attending.

What did you major in at UMass? How has it been helpful to you in your law career?
I was a Political Science major. My major gave me a great foundation in writing proficiency and government, which helped to boost my knowledge about events that shaped the laws I was studying.

What’s your favorite UMass memory?
I used to love to play Wiffle Ball and Football near Baker in Central. Also, Wings anyone?

Did you take time off before, during or after college? If so, what did you do?
I didn’t, unfortunately. Looking back, that is something I would have changed. The gained perspective you get when you have a break from school – as opposed to going straight to law school from undergrad – seemed to work wonders for almost everyone I know who chose to take time off.

What non-law experiences have ended up being surprisingly useful to you in your legal career?
Interestingly enough, my experience working retail jobs has been incredibly useful. People want great customer service regardless of what they’re buying. Whether it’s a computer, a lawnmower, or your advice, people want to be treated well. They don’t teach customer service in law school, so I’ve been lucky enough to put the skills I gained in my many part time jobs to good use.

Any choices along your career path that you particularly regret or are especially grateful for?
I regret missing out on opportunities because I was uncomfortable. Some of the best advice I have ever received was to “be uncomfortable all the times.” Don’t settle for doing something because it’s easy or just because you are comfortable with it. Life is about experiencing as much as you possibly can. Don’t let fear or laziness get in the way of that.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer any more, what would you do? (Or: what’s your second career going to be?)
I would love to design cars. Nothing is better than driving a thoughtfully engineered vehicle.

If you feel comfortable sharing, tell us something about your finances: How much debt did you take on for law school? How much (rough estimates are fine) do your currently make? How long do you expect to be paying off your debt? How has your debt impacted your career and life choices?
I think this is a phenomenal question. Law school debt, much like any other student loan debt, is taken on before you actually have the perspective to appreciate its impact. Hopefully anyone reading this who is thinking of law school will stop for a minute and appreciate the economic realities of that decision. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Law school and my undergraduate studies ended up costing me well into the six-figure mark. My debt was kept more manageable by grants and scholarships, part-time jobs and living with relatives as opposed to expensive apartments, but still in the end, being in school for 7 years is incredibly expensive.

How do you respond when someone asks your advice about whether to go to law school?
I tell them to look at the market and at what they expect from that market when they graduate. It’s hard to expect a 22 year old to look past the societal prestige of gaining admission to law school. Only when you’re out of school, could you every fully realize the impact the market will have on the rest of your life. Going to law school is a great experience for anybody in terms of learning and growing, but the reality of paying back loans and finding your perfect job in the law can be totally different than what you might expect. Sometimes the personal growth found by many law students can be obtained in a more financially prudent way given the market for lawyers in the locale where the prospective students are thinking of attending. But, for me, I loved law school and even though my loans will impact me for many years, I feel like my decision was the right one.

If you could have dinner with any lawyer, real or fictional, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Abraham Lincoln. Hands down. I would love to hear his thoughts on his presidency, his own practice of law and the civil war.