Each month, we like to feature one of our attorneys to help you get to know our team better. We sat down with one of our Houston attorneys, Austin Taylor, to talk about his background in the legal field and what he is currently working on.
What led you to a legal career?
The legal profession has been a part of my life beginning at a very young age. I come from a family of excellent attorneys, including my grandfather, father and two uncles. Hearing tales of hard-fought victories in the courtroom and listening to discussions of case complexities around the dinner table growing up was always interesting and fascinating to me. Honestly, I do not believe I have ever entertained the possibility of being anything but a lawyer my entire life.
However, it wasn’t until I got a little bit older that I truly started to understand what being a lawyer really meant. It’s about helping people. Behind each of those fascinating stories I heard throughout the years was a client who was injured or wronged in some way, and their last hope was their attorney fighting on their behalf. That is what I wanted to be. The person who steps in on behalf of an individual who has been wronged and give that person and their family a voice that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
My years practicing law have only solidified my decision to become an attorney. I’ve had an opportunity to meet and get to know some truly wonderful people and hear some amazing stories, but at the same time, share in some of the hardship and loss that accompany those stories. It is a privilege to be able to take those stories and hardships and turn them into peace of mind and justice for our clients and their families.
What has been your most interesting or memorable case and why?
That is a tough question. Each case is unique in its own way and presents its own challenges and adversities, but the cases I remember the most are not ones I remember because of the legal aspects of the case but because of the people involved. The clients make the cases memorable.
I work primarily on the asbestos docket in the firm. Although each case is different, there is always one constant in these cases: The opposition is not going to make things easy on you. That is just a given. There will be times in each case where you have to fight in court, work long hours and perhaps even do your best not to roll your eyes at the opposition (at least not in front of the Zoom camera these days). But those types of things are just part of the process of advocacy. It’s the clients themselves who make cases memorable.
One example I would like to share comes from one of my first talc cases. I am not going to give names, but this was an older gentleman who was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a terminal asbestos-related cancer. I flew across the country to meet with him for the first time. I knocked on the door with my case folder in hand and had all my supplies in my briefcase. He opened the door and said: “You must be Austin. Now, put all that junk down and come join us at the table. You have had a long trip, and I bet you could use some refreshment before we begin.”
Naturally, I did as he said and joined him at the table, where his wife and daughter were setting out cheese, crackers and iced tea. We sat there and talked for well over an hour about each other’s background and family, just getting to know one another without discussing his case at all. After our visit, the client and I moved to the living room so we could talk privately about the case. As soon as we sat down in our chairs, he looked at me and said: “Now, Austin, I know what this disease is, and I know I don’t have much time left. So, if it’s okay with you, let’s get to work.” We did just that. We met for three more hours that day and two hours the next day before I flew back home.
About a month passed before it was time to take the client’s deposition. I knocked on the door once again to find him sitting in a wheelchair and about 20 pounds lighter than he was on our previous visit. His condition was escalating rapidly. We met for a significantly shorter period of time that day for obvious reasons. His deposition started the next day and proceeded for two additional days after that — six hours each day. If it was up to me, I would have extended the number of days even longer, because I could see what a toll it was taking on his body and wanted to stop the deposition earlier each day. He insisted on trudging through and pushing himself each day to get it done. At the end of the third day, when the opposition was done asking him questions, he got up out of his wheelchair and walked out of the conference room and got into his car under his own power. I remember thinking: My goodness, this guy is tough as nails. He passed away a few weeks after the deposition. Because of his hard work, we were able to build a solid case for his family.
For me, this was a memorable case not only because of how much I personally liked this client, and because we had formed a bond in the short amount of time we had together, but also because it served as an example, early in my career, of why this work is so necessary and important. It illustrated how these cases involve real people, who have a family and a history, and who are now being taken away from all of that due to someone else’s wrongful conduct. If folks like that client are not worth fighting for, then I don’t know what is.
What litigation are you currently working on?
The litigations I am currently working on consist of talc and other “more traditional” asbestos-related cases. These cases come in from all parts of the country and arise out of numerous different trades and occupations.
I also assist the asbestos bankruptcy team on various individual cases and projects.
What are one or two things about you that most people don’t know?
I am still a small-town kid at heart, despite living in Houston for almost 10 years. I would rather be in a tree stand somewhere than in a mall any day of the week. “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!”