Julie Taylor thrives in the “emotion-based practice” that is employment litigation, a specialty she developed after a period focused on securities litigation. Taylor represents a wide range of employers as a San Francisco-based shareholder at Keesal Young & Logan, where she has spent her entire career. Taylor has been a true Californian since moving to the state as a 12-year-old; she received a political science degree from California Polytechnic State University and her law degree from Hastings College of the Law.
Lawdragon: Can you please describe your interests as a child and any memories of what inspired you to become a lawyer?
Julie Taylor: I moved a lot when I was young – we rarely stayed in one place more than a school year. As a result, I became very good at meeting and getting to know new people. I’ve always been intensely curious about all sorts of people, where they come from, what their life experiences are, and why they do what they do and feel what they feel.
LD: What did you study at California Polytechnic State University? Can you describe your time at the University of California?
JT: I was a Political Science major with a concentration in prelaw. Cal Poly is a fantastic school, with a “learn by doing” philosophy that allowed me to spend a lot of time out of the classroom, including working in the Felony Trial Division of the US Attorney’s office in Washington D.C. and inside of the California prison system.
LD: What led you to choose University of California, Hastings College of Law for your law studies?
JT: Since the time that my family moved to California when I was 12, I dreamed of working in San Francisco. Going to law school in the City seemed like a great first step, so Hastings was always my first choice.
LD: Did you spend time as a summer associate with Keesal Young & Logan, or how did you come to join the firm?
JT: I have had the rare experience of being at the same firm for my entire career. I was fortunate enough to get a summer associate position with KY&L after my first year of law school. I didn’t know much about the firm or its practice areas, but was struggling to pay the rent and was so happy to find a paid position. As it turned out, I lucked into a law firm where I loved the attorneys, was fascinated by the broad practice areas and was constantly challenged. I worked my second summer at a “big law” firm and realized it wasn’t for me. I craved the collegiality of a mid-size firm, and I returned to KY&L as an associate in 1991.
LD: Are there particular mentors who’ve inspired or taught you, whether in life, law school or practice?
JT: Skip Keesal, the founder of my law firm and still a very active litigator, taught me that there’s nothing more important than personal and professional ethics, and that respect, courtesy and professionalism get you a lot farther than antagonism and double dealing. He created a firm culture that permeates everything we do, from how we work with each other to how we deal with clients and opposing parties. Also, Justin Hectus, KY&L’s CIO/CISO, has inspired me to become invested in the firm’s technology initiatives and how they can drive us to more efficient outcomes for our clients, while allowing flexibility in terms of how and where we work.
LD: What led you to focus on employment litigation for your practice?
JT: When I was practicing primarily securities litigation as a young associate in the early 90’s, several our clients began to face lawsuits relating to gender discrimination and sexual harassment. I became fascinated with the dynamics of these office relationships and never looked back. One of the things that I love about employment litigation is that everyone brings all their life experiences to the table. While most people who are fired from a job simply move on, that may not be possible for someone who’s had a past experience of victimization for which they never got closure. Aside from family law, employment litigation is probably the most emotion-based practice there is.
LD: What advice would you give to students who want to specialize in employment litigation?
JT: I had a colleague once who told me that he didn’t want to practice employment litigation because he wasn’t comfortable with his own emotions, much less other people’s. Any employment lawyer on either side of the table is going to spend a good amount of time holding hands and dealing with people’s emotions – make sure you’re someone who isn’t just comfortable with that, but embraces it.
LD: What inspires you about your job?
JT: I have a deep affection for the people with whom I work – both my colleagues at the firm and my clients. I love mentoring younger lawyers, especially women lawyers who are facing the challenge of balancing pregnancy and motherhood with work. Now that my children are grown and I have a little more time, I’m inspired by working with the broader legal community on issues like access to justice and diversity and inclusion.
LD: What did you find fulfilling about serving on the Board of Directors of the California Bar Foundation?
JT: I served on the Board of Directors of the California Bar Foundation (now California ChangeLawyers) for six years, and served as its President from 2015 to2017. Two of the missions of the Bar Foundation are to increase diverse representation in the California Bar and to provide access to justice to the most underserved communities in California. While I was President of the Bar Foundation, we married those two concepts by creating a first of its kind postgraduate legal fellowship placing diverse lawyers in some of the most underserved parts of the state. During that time, the Foundation also became California’s largest independent source of statewide law school diversity scholarships and pipeline program grants. I’m incredibly proud of those accomplishments.
LD: What do you enjoy outside of law practice?
JT: I’m a rabid rugby mom. It’s a sport that combines an almost brutal intensity of play, with an unbelievable amount of tradition and sportsmanship. A lot like litigating I guess!