Julie Taylor, Shareholder at Keesal, Young & Logan
Q:What did you want to do when you were 10 years old?
A: I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast (never came close).
Q: What was your favorite class in high school? Why?
A: I loved history. I was fascinated by the concept that one decision, one mistake, or one heroic deed could change the future.
Q: What was your first paid job?
A: Babysitter, although I wasn’t very good at it.
Q: What was your first big career break and how did it change your career path?
A: My first career break was finding out early that I didn’t want the job I thought I wanted. I applied to law school so that I could prosecute criminals. Late in my senior year of college, after being accepted to Hastings Law School, I had the opportunity to intern in a felony prosecution unit at the US Attorneys’ office in DC. I learned very quickly that I didn’t have the ability to separate work from life that successful prosecutors have. I stopped sleeping, worried about the victims, the recidivists whose life circumstances had never given them a chance – I wept for them all. The job I thought I wanted made me miserable, but it gave me the opportunity to refocus my career path before starting law school.
Q: How did you get your current position (internal promotion, company change, other)?
A: I started at Keesal, Young & Logan (KYL) in 1989 as a summer associate, earned a job offer and started as an associate in 1991, and was promoted to Shareholder (while pregnant!) in 1998.
Q: What do you like most about your current role?
A: I love litigating – any time in front of a judge, arbitrator or jury is still a rush after all these years. I love teaching junior attorneys and giving them opportunities to learn by jumping in the deep end. I also currently serve as the President of the California Bar Foundation and I’m passionate about our diversity work.
Q: Who was your most important mentor, coach, advocate or role model and how did (s)he help you?
A: Our founding partner Skip Keesal. At a time when many women thought they needed to be overly aggressive to be taken seriously in the legal field, Skip taught me that effective advocacy never involves being rude, disrespectful or unprofessional. He made it clear that he cared about good, honest lawyering - not my gender. He gave me access to clients and opportunities based on my merit and, once I became a mother, never suggested that my role at the firm had somehow been diminished (while, at the same time, being unwavering in his support of my role as a mom).
Q: What is currently your biggest career challenge?
A: Adapting to new technology. For an old dog, I’m pretty good at learning new tricks – and we have an amazing technology department that has earned awards for its approach to teaching technology – but it’s a challenge for me to stay on top of it.
Q: What’s your 5-year career plan, i.e. where would you like to be in 2020?
A: Doing what I’m doing, but increasing the emphasis on the advisory side of my practice.
Q: Do you currently have a “board of advisors” to help make career choices? What kinds of advisors are on it?
A: My husband and my best friend, a few of my partners and a very close friend at my firm.
Q: What do you see as the biggest roadblock to your career advancement?
A: There have been potholes in the road, usually around finding a happy balance between work and family, but I can’t say it’s ever been blocked.
Q: What is the best career advice you’ve received?
A: Stop doing it when you stop loving it.
Q: What career advice would you give to women beginning their careers?
A: Don’t just grab the first job that comes your way, or the one that pays the most money or seems most glamorous. Really think about where you want to be in 10 years. Do you want a family? What do you want that to look like? Do you want to be able to travel? Every job you make should be a purposeful step toward your long term goals.
Q: What mistakes do you see women making in their careers?
A: Thinking they have to be getting straight A’s in every aspect of their lives – it leads to disappointment and burnout. I’m going for a solid B average. Some days I’m an A+ attorney, but a C- mom. Other days I knock the mom thing out of the park, but accomplish nothing particularly impressive at work. Some days I skip school altogether. A solid B feels pretty good to me.
Q: What do you wish someone had told you about your career?
A: It’s going to be long, so constantly seek out opportunities to grow.
Q: What book changed your career or life?
A: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. It was the beginning of my education on injustice, and the spark for my passion for equality and inclusion.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: “Only dumb people try to impress smart people. Smart people just do what they do.” Chris Rock.