Author Spotlight – Erica Brooke Taylor
February 7, 2011 Leave a comment
For those who don’t know you, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I have been practising as a lawyer for ten years. My career has been varied and I have not walked the traditional path of most lawyers, in fact I pride myself on breaking the mould. Hence, I am where I am today. I am a working mother, have a gorgeous son who is three and half years old and another currently under construction (due in May 2011).
What is your legal background?
When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer….and a part-time aerobics instructor. I lay the blame for this squarely on early episodes of LA Law and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Fast forward 10 years, and I did miserably in my HSC (I met my now husband in my last year of high school….need I say more?). My ambition and determination to be a lawyer had not waned despite this, so I had to work extremely hard to become a lawyer (my desire to be a part-time aerobics instructor was eventually pushed to one side….too much lycra).
I started my legal career as a registration clerk pounding the pavement of the Sydney streets attending to settlements and court filing….all before the dawn of the internet. I started studying law through the LPAB, scored a job at Freehills as a junior secretary, and then applied to UTS and was accepted to study a Bachelor of Laws.
I have since worked in private practice, as an in-house lawyer, as a sole practitioner and as a legal analyst; and completed by LLM in Corporate and Commercial Law. I also became a Notary Public in 2010.
I am currently the Principal of my own practice, lexicon:legal. My practice is in its infancy, but is growing by the day.
Why did you decide to write for Smokeball?
Working for myself and starting from scratch, I am continually looking for ways to diversify my income. Given my love of legal research and writing, Smokeball presented the perfect opportunity for me to create an additional revenue stream for my practice, whilst doing something I love.
When you aren’t writing for Smokeball what do you do?
Mainly day-to-day work in my practice. lexicon:legal offers legal advisory services in the areas of corporate and commercial law; competition and consumer law; intellectual property; information technology law; and commercial conveyancing.
I also work in the Applied Masters of Law Program in Commercial Litigation, facilitated by the College of Law, having authored their Competition Litigation Subject.
I am a Notary Public and I am constantly thinking of how I can grow my practice.
I also spend quite a lot of my time building with blocks and Lego, playing Matchbox cars with my son and getting my groove on with the Wiggles.
You are the Principal of a legal practice, an author, seminar presenter and were a legal editor and analyst. What drives you each day to strive for excellence?
Having a work-life balance. I won’t say that I have struck the perfect balance, but working for myself has allowed me the flexibility to focus on my family and dictate my own work schedule. I will admit that as a result, sleep is a luxury and coffee a necessity….but it is all worth it.
What does it take to become the Principal of a legal practice?
I’m not sure that my most honest answer is suitable for publication, so I will say sheer determination, and patience….a lot of patience.
You have worked as a lawyer in the entertainment industry. How did this differ to working the legal industry?
My experience in the entertainment industry was, shall we say, colourful. I worked as an in-house lawyer at Foxtel early in my career, and then as a sole practitioner working for musicians, actors, artists and the like.
I loved the industry and the diverse nature of the work. I learned very quickly that lawyers working in the industry didn’t get very far if they always took a black and white approach. I was once asked if it would be possible to give away a horse in a trade promotion to advertise a children’s television show. My first instinct was to say “no”, after having visions of the winner leaving the horse to languish after he/she realised that there was a lot more work involved to tending to a horse than brushing and braiding its mane. However, with a bit of lateral thinking and a few telephone calls to the RSPCA and pony clubs, I managed to find a solution.
So if anything, working in the entertainment industry taught me to think outside the square. I have stuck to this approach throughout my career since, and I think it is one of the things that sets me apart from my peers.
You worked as a trade practices analyst, and as editor of the Australian Trade Practices Reporter and the Australian Trade Practices Compliance Reporter, how did you get started in this?
During my foray in to the world of sole practice as an entertainment lawyer, I quickly realised that the provision of legal services to musicians, actors etc was very much a benevolent exercise. A credit at the end of a film as “payment” really didn’t cut it with the Commonwealth Bank when it came time to pay my mortgage every month. So I had to find a “real” job but felt I needed a break from practising law. My work as an analyst and editor allowed me to shift my focus whilst still being actively involved in the legal profession.
You have written and presented a number of continuing legal education seminars for in-house lawyers. Why did you start doing this?
My husband would say it is because I like the sound of my own voice. This is, for the most part, true. I also thoroughly enjoy keeping up to date with developments in the law and assisting other practitioners to get up to speed with these developments in a timely fashion. To put it bluntly, I am an uber-geek and quite enamoured with legal research and writing.
What sets you apart from other lawyers in your field?
Thinking outside the square. I always strive to get to know the business of my clients so that I can give practical legal advice relevant to the commercial reality of their business. After all, the point of the whole exercise is to either help the client make a buck, or avoid having to spend a buck getting out of trouble. I am also quite often mistaken for the office junior and asked to fetch coffee in meetings. I don’t mind though….I do love coffee and it was from my humble beginnings as an office junior that my career grew. It’s good to stay grounded.
Was there a time in your career where you were ready to give up, and why?
There have been many times when I have been ready to give up. A few years ago, at the time the GFC was just starting to hit, I lost a contracting job I had working as in-house counsel for a multi-national enterprise software vendor. It was a great job, flexible hours and I worked with some fantastic people. I was crushed when the contract came to an end and I was faced with either going back to full-time work or going-it on my own. It all seemed a bit too hard at that time, but with determination, and a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, lexicon:legal was born.
If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would they be?
Richard Branson and Jay-Z….both men have achieved the heights of success from very humble beginnings.
What is an interesting fact or story about yourself that those in your profession don’t know?
I have over the years amassed great volumes of sports trivia knowledge, but have never in my life played a team sport.
For our readers who are currently in the legal profession and looking to advance their career like you have, what should they do?
With a bit of lateral thinking, determination and some degree of insanity, you can transform your job into something that works for you, rather than something you are always working at. Never be afraid to put your ideas to the test, no matter how far-fetched they may seem to others.
Of all your achievements, what is your proudest moment?
There have been too many to choose just one. I am proud of my professional achievements every day. Personally, my biggest achievement to date has most certainly been the birth of my son.
Looking into the future, what is your ultimate goal?
To grow my practice and continue to balance my family life with my career.
Do you have anything in the works at the moment?
I am currently updating my Smokeball publication, Guide to Commercial Contracts, to reflect recent changes to the consumer law and personal property securities reform. I am also working on a professional services offering for in-house counsel to assist in-house legal departments reduce costs and maximise efficiency. Oh, and the baby….so I must wrap up and get on with clearing my archived files from the soon to be nursery….whilst taking a 3pm conference call!
Erica Brooke Taylor is the author of Smokeball’s Guide to Commercial Contracts.