This is an exciting time for the Taylor Defense Firm! I graduated from law school in 2005, and have been practicing law for 9 years. When I moved to Kansas City, it was to be closer to family. After the death of my parents I had no professional contacts at all in Kansas City, but I did have a hunger and a desire to get courtroom experience. One of the truths about law school is that law school does not give you practical experience. Yes, there are mock court opportunities, but the most significant accomplishment of those programs is to create a false sense of security. Real experience only comes from the courtroom. Law school does not teach you how to become a lawyer, you only get that by having an experienced attorney mentor you. I have had mentors to learn from throughout my career because I have always approached the practice of law as a continuous learning experience. The day I finish a trial and think to myself “That was perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing” is the day I should stop practicing law. Sadly, the practice of law breeds arrogance in its practitioners, which is likely what has led me to live my career with humility and a thirst for knowledge.
When I arrived in Kansas City, the first thing I had to do was get a law license. I went to law school at the University of Oklahoma. It is significantly easier to pass a bar examination when you have attended school in that state, learning that state’s laws and procedures. I took and passed the Missouri bar examination on my first try in July 2005. The next opportunity to take a bar examination was Kansas in February of 2006. As a city split between two states, that was the prudent thing to do. I took and passed the Kansas bar examination on my first try as well.
For the following four years I practiced law in the Missouri Public Defender’s system. The life of a public defender in a major city is hectic but rewarding. Coming into a courtroom and knowing you have 120 clients to represent in a single morning is an experience few attorneys can relate to, but you either learn time management and the value of a case, or you drown in the paperwork. Those who cannot manage their stress or their caseload do not last long. I will always miss my colleagues in the early days of my career who were my support system and who guided the early days of my legal career.
As I began looking around for another job, I had a judge who was a great mentor of mine challenge me to follow my dream of joining the military. I had a client in his courtroom who was a gulf war veteran but had a raging drug problem. He was discharged from the Army with a less than honorable conditions discharge. The Army convicted him of drug use but never gave him treatment or compassion. By the time he was my client, he had already been convicted of several civilian drug offenses as well. I argued to the Judge that probation and treatment were warranted because of his service to his country. The judge was a retired Army major, who used to be military police. The Judge turned the tables on me and asked me if I was too good to serve my country. I called his bluff and submitted my application. I also got the probation and treatment for my client. When I applied to the JAG Corps, the accession rate was 3% because we were in the height of the recession. When I was accepted, the Judge who challenged me administered my oath of commission as I began my new life as a military lawyer.
Life as a military lawyer was eye opening. I was stationed at Vandenberg AFB, and escaped the freezing temperatures of the Midwest. I served with some wonderful people, but there were systemic problems in the JAG Corps that creates a disservice to our men and women in uniform. Lawyers have a tendency to be arrogant, and officers have a tendency to be arrogant. Officers who are lawyers have the potential to be the most arrogant people I have known. The JAG Corps prefers to recruit lawyers right out of law school. By doing so, most legal offices are staffed by people who have gone straight from the nest of their parents home, to the nest of college, to the nest of law school, then straight to the nest of the Air Force. Legal office attorneys start to believe the bullets on their performance reports, and think they can do no wrong. They opine about the worthiness or unworthiness of uniformed personnel even though they have zero life experience to rely upon. Through a strong work ethic and a hunger for knowledge, I was able to outdistance my peers. As a prosecutor, I was assigned the most serious cases my base had to offer, and I won every case I was assigned. I was hand picked by the Air Force to run the Area Defense Counsel office at Vandenberg. For two years, I successfully defended Air Force personnel who had been accused of wrongdoing. I exploited the arrogance of legal office personnel to win cases that sometimes had overwhelming evidence. By staying flexible and continuously learning and applying what I learned throughout my career, I was able to earn an outstanding acquittal rate as well as a reputation as a very successful trial attorney.
When the Air Force offered me my next assignment, it required me to leave California, but most importantly I knew it would lead back to the legal office soon. Throughout my career, I have chafed at my bosses telling me how to try a case, or spending more time writing reports than defending my clients. I get emotionally attached to my clients, and I have always cared more about seeing my clients succeed than keeping my boss happy. I made the decision to separate from the Air Force and start the Taylor Defense Firm because I wanted to create a client centered law firm where I would be free to defend my clients in a way where the only thing that matters is to keep my clients happy instead of my boss.
In order to open the Taylor Defense Firm however, that meant I had to take the California bar examination. I studied over the summer and learned the laws and procedures for my fourth jurisdiction to practice in (Missouri, Kansas, and military courts). As I sat in the Santa Clara convention center, I was surrounded by some of the most arrogant people I had ever encountered, talking about the business cards their secretaries would order, or how they would go to their post-bar trip to Tuscany. Amongst the licensed attorneys who took the bar examination in the summer of 2014, only 31% of us passed the bar examination. For the third time, I took and passed a bar examination on my first try. Tomorrow I will have the honor of being sworn in to the California bar.
As I begin the Taylor Defense Firm, I do so with a promise of transparency. The most important thing I have learned in nine years as an attorney is that no attorney can be successful without the trust of their client. Regardless of whether you are represented by a public defender, or a private attorney, if you are not satisfied with your attorney and comfortable placing your future in their hands, the attorney client relationship will be dysfunctional. I have been successful because my clients have always been able to tell that I truly care about them and their future. That is not something you can fake, and it is how I have earned trust. I am not the type of attorney who believes clients should place their future in my hands simply because I have a degree and license on my wall. I am also not going to be the type of attorney who bases my fees on how much money I believe I can get out of you. I structure my fees in a way to give clients or potential clients the ability to know with certainty what they are facing.
If you are facing a criminal charge, regardless if you are in the State of California or the military, give me a call and I will be happy to discuss your case at no cost and tell you what you are facing and what my strategy would be to defend you. Feel free to give me a call at (805) 538-0455. I look forward to defending your rights.