Major milestone: Norman Taylor marks 40th anniversary as a lawyer

Celebrating four decades since qualifying as a lawyer on July 1st 1975, Norman Taylor has witnessed seismic changes to the profession.

At the forefront of developing collaborative law in Yorkshire – and amassing a wealth of experience involving financial issues arising from family and relationship breakdown – Norman gives us an insight into his colourful life and career.

What prompted you to work in family law?

It was more evolution than revolution, based on a preference to work with real people rather than corporate bodies.

Where did you qualify – and are there any specific experiences that stand out during your studies?

I graduated from Newcastle University in 1972 – a highlight was the 1972 F.A. Cup final and two great summer vacations in the States. The only quasi-academic “experience” was a wise tutor telling me and some of my pals that we were the “down to earth” guys who would suit private practice. The jury’s still out.

How different was the legal landscape four decades ago?

Massively – apart from technological and regulatory revolutions, in those days we trained and qualified as general practitioners – as opposed to immediately specialising in a particular area. Legal aid was a natural part of our working lives that paid reasonable remuneration and allowed almost universal access to justice. We were a trusted and respected profession. Clients were clients, not customers.

Where was your first job – and what did it involve?

It was a 6 months pre-university role at a Solicitor’s office in Leeds. After the 6 months, I received £45 that we blew on a booze-up on the last day. I was a gofer but spent time in the courts, checking the daily list to see if we had cases in court the next day and sitting behind Counsel (including the late Lord Chief Justice Peter Taylor, QC as he later became). I recall a motor case where the client had sneezed while driving and had an accident. His defence was “automatism” – his foot hitting the accelerator was uncontrollable during the sneeze – he was acquitted.

Tell us more about being at the forefront of collaborative law in Yorkshire

I just happened to do the training in 2005 when it first became available and decided that I wanted to spread the word. It marked a change in the way I wanted to do my work. So I met with a few others from around the North of England who had also completed the training and we started a movement that has since blossomed in the Northern part of the country.

What cases are you most proud of?

It’s hard to generalise. Mainly those where we had to fight for our client to obtain a fair result, but also – and most satisfying – is helping vulnerable people through the awful process of separation and seeing them come out at the other end with confidence, dignity and a positive eye to the future.

What attracted you to join Jones Myers in December 2009?

I already knew most of the personnel at the office, having had numerous cases where we were on opposite sides, and having been on committees with some of the solicitors there at the time. We always worked well and had a common philosophy about how the work should be done.

Tell us more about your broader contribution to the legal profession 

I served for several years on the West and North Yorks Resolution committee, and as Pod Liaison officer for the Leeds Collaborative Pod. My collaborative training acted as a catalyst for reading as much as I have been able on negotiation theory, and dealing with high conflict/crisis situations.

I have become more interested in presenting workshops on aspects that might have a practical impact on the way we negotiate solutions to cases, and manage crisis situations. I feel there is a massive gap in the training of young (and old) family lawyers. To this end I have presented workshops to Law students at BPP Law School on aspects of negotiation theory; presented workshops based on hostage negotiation principles to other Collaborative Pods including Manchester – and other firms on managing communication with High Conflict Personalities.

What law would you most like to see changed?

I’d like to see no-fault Divorce.

What have been your highlights over the years?

Having met, worked with and worked for so many wonderful people. But perhaps a client saying “I couldn’t have done it without you” is as good as it gets.

What is your perfect day away from the office?

Reading for an hour or so, then some guitar practice, a walk in the country with my wife and any kids that may be available, including a nice lunch somewhere, and seeing a world class jazz guitarist in the evening – perhaps in New York.

How would you like people to remember you? 

Somebody who cared, and had a sense of humour!

Do you have any questions about separation or divorce?  Please contact us or follow us on  Twitter @helpwithdivorce.

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