Erica T. Taylor, ’14, Staff Attorney for the Saturday Lawyer Program
Erica Taylor has dreamed about being a lawyer since she was 7. Although her perception of what lawyers do has shifted since then, she is happily living her dream of the kind of lawyer she imagined she would be – a person who helps others solve problems.
Taylor serves as the staff attorney for the Saturday Lawyer Program, the flagship program of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. She spends her days recruiting and supporting volunteer attorneys to represent clients with landlord-tenant issues or unpaid wage claims. Oftentimes without representation, these clients dealing with housing conditions or inability to collect their wages end up homeless.
Taylor has always had a passion for helping others. Her first job after law school was in a private firm, but she started volunteering with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundations (AVLF). “I connected strongly with their mission and really enjoyed my time as a volunteer. When an opportunity came for me to work in-house with them, I jumped at it,” Taylor remembered. In her role, she gets the opportunity not only to work with volunteer lawyers but also to teach clients about their basic rights.
Taylor loves getting to see the direct impact of her work. She says that at AVLF, “We don’t get to help everyone, but we definitely get to change lives, and that is amazing! Every person whose life I get to touch and help make better in some way motivates me to keep going.”
Mercer Law’s unique way of encouraging collaboration for students to work together on projects instead of viewing classmates as adversaries really helped prepare Taylor for her role in public interest. “The work we do is very much about collaboration. We work together with volunteers, opposing counsel and community partners to try to find solutions for our clients,” said Taylor. “Additionally, learning skills such as client counseling, alternative dispute resolution, legal research and legal writing has been extremely useful. These are all skills that I definitely lean heavily on now and notice the difference in a colleague who didn’t receive that kind of skills training.”
The network she built at the Law School was one of her best memories, and she still stays in touch with classmates. She made friends as a member of LAVA, BLSA, AWLS and Section 2 of her class. She still remembers the AWLS kickboxing tournament, BLSA panels and the LAVA end-of-year Bears Den lunch. She treasured the study groups and social outings.
As a young lawyer, Taylor took advantage of the programs offered by the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Division. She said, “It was hands-down one of the best professional decisions I ever made.” It allowed her to meet lawyers with different backgrounds, and those connections have been invaluable. She has built deep and enduring friendships. She believes that networking, and getting involved in bar associations are key. “Go to meetings! Join committees!,” she said.
For those who are starting out, no matter the practice area, she encourages them to be clear about their goals but be patient and flexible about how they get there. She advises, “Do pro bono work. It sounds a bit self-serving given my current job, but the skills and experience I learned by taking on pro bono cases truly helped me excel in my jobs in private practice.”