CV #9 Taylor English: Be the Law Firm You Wish To See in The World
COMPANY AT A GLANCE
Founded: In 2005 by Marc Taylor, Joe English, and Scott Duma, among others. They had been practicing law for years and were tired of the traditional ways of doing things, so they built this law firm to incentivize the type of environment they wanted to work in.
Revenue: 50 Million | Employees: 215
Values: Opportunity, Accountability, Gratitude, Excellence
Community: Donated thousands of hours of pro-bono law, board-level guidance, coaching and advocacy, as well as financially supporting local charities. They also provide office space for the nonprofit Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice in their space.
LET THE TOUR BEGIN
Before heading over to Taylor English, I met Co-Founder & Partner, Joe English, at the Porsche Experience Center to attend an Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs event. It was a packed morning! By 10am, I had already seen the American Idol runner up, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, perform (see video below), I learned about “Crossing the Chasm” throughout different stages of business, and then recognized two Forbes Small Giants Winners (Taylor English and Vanderbloemen Search Group, who I’m going to visit in two days!).
Afterwards, we headed over to the firm and the incredible Marketing Director, Karen Wilcox, organized a jammed pack day of meetings with employees from all levels of the organization: founders, partners, new employees, longtime employees, lawyers, and paralegals. Here’s what I learned:
1. Build Your Company to Incentivize the Behaviors You Want to See
To understand how much of a pioneer Taylor English is, you have to understand how a typical law firm works, so I created this basic table to illustrate the difference. First, I’ll share their structure as a firm and then we’ll dive into some of their internal practices.
Understanding this structure is huge because it takes away lots of the internal competitiveness in law firms and makes it much more collegial.
2. Breaking Down Barriers
I can’t tell you how many times I heard, that the difference between Taylor English and regular law firms is night and day. As you can imagine, when folks come onboard there are a lot of behaviors they must unlearn. How do they do it? Reinforcement of core values throughout the organization. Their firm works especially hard to break down the strong hierarchy that otherwise exists between lawyers and non-lawyer staff, as well as experienced and inexperienced lawyers. In a traditional law firm, often people are treated based on their position in the firm. Taylor English does this differently. Here’s how they handle things most traditional law firms would never do:
1. Hiring: Because of their unique model, Taylor English attracts lawyers who will “bet on themselves” and seek autonomy and flexibility. As Tamika Nordstrom, one of their newest partners shared with me, the interview process was much more about who she was as a person, versus what she’s done. Of course, Taylor English hires talented lawyers, but they don’t need to run through of all the details if you have a proven track record. It’s more about whether you are a culture fit. They ask questions like, who are you, where do you see yourself, how will you grow here? As Co-Founder Joe English said, “We hire good lawyers and even better people.”
2. Onboarding: Operations Coordinator, Monica Azar, shared a story with me about how when she was hired on as a paralegal, the lawyers organized a lunch for her to meet some of the team. She was completely in shock, that would never happen at a traditional law firm.
3. Office Space: Every lawyer has the same size office and furniture, and can decorate however they like. This includes the company founders.
4. Communication: In a traditional law firm, only lawyers are sent updates on daily operations. However, Joe will send firm updates to everyone: non-lawyer staff included. I heard firsthand how much this means to paralegals and the administrative staff: they feel like they are a part of the team and the overall successes of the firm. Because community is also a priority, Joe sends out updates on pro-bono matters as well.
5. Events: In a traditional law firm, most internal events are invite-only and based on your status in the firm. At Taylor English, everyone is invited and encouraged to come to company events, such as Wine Wednesdays and Friday lunches. One of the most highly attended events of the year is the celebration of Lola Martin-Jackson, a beloved member of the Taylor English team who passed away unexpectedly two years ago. Every year, they give out the “Lola Award” to the person who was nominated most by their peers for their kindness, compassion, and positivity.
6. Knowledge Sharing: Taylor English is currently working on a lunch and learn series where experienced partners train junior lawyers on how to build a book of business. This is significant because oftentimes, junior lawyers only know how to work on cases and then eventually are expected to bring in a book of business on their own. They’re flipping this on its head and sharing knowledge from the beginning – and this was a junior lawyer’s idea.
7. Dress: In a traditional firm, you are expected to dress top notch, regardless of your day. At Taylor English, you use your judgment and dress for the day you have ahead of you: whether you’re going to court, or working in the office.
8. Introductions: When out and about, Taylor English introduces their colleagues, as colleagues, regardless of their position.
I was deeply moved by the profound impact that this purpose-built law firm has on their people’s lives. I listened to Paralegal, Lisa Wilkerson, share her story about how her husband jokingly calls Taylor English “Candy Land” because of how happy she is when she comes home from work. Corporate Paralegal, Coy Pierce, shared how she prayed every day for six months to be hired here (and continues to pray for the firm every single day). Junior lawyer, Brian Gardner, shared how impactful it was to be able to express an idea to the founders and have them take it seriously. Veteran Team Member & Partner, Will Adams, shared what it meant to have this flexibility and autonomy in raising a family as a single father. New Partner, Tamika Nordstrom, shared what it feels like to be hired for who you are, not just the dollar amount you can bring to the table…
Taylor English has designed a purpose-built law firm to promote the work environment they want to see in the world. They value their employees beyond the dollar amounts they bring to the table and see them as individuals. They trust their employees from the get-go and empower them to create their own definitions of success.