Wayne Law grad protects Texas environment

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Adam Taylor, who graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 2014, spends some time with his dogs at a dog park near his home in Austin, Texas.

Attorney Adam Taylor’s first introduction to law as a career came at home, around the family dinner table.

When he was 9 years old, his mother, Elizabeth Taylor, who then was an English professor, was going to law school at night.

“She’d come home and talk through what she did around the dinner table,” said her son, a 2014 alumnus of Wayne State University Law School. “It was fascinating to me – the way you’d think things through and analyze them.”

Taylor is an environmental attorney today working for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and his mom, too, is an attorney now, specializing in education employment law. Now they both “talk things through” around the table when they’re able to get together and share a meal.

Taylor, who grew up in Monroe, and his wife live in Austin, Texas, a city he says is “like Ann Arbor, but warmer.”

He moved there after passing the Michigan Bar Exam.

“When I moved down to Texas, I wasn’t licensed there as an attorney,” he said. “I obtained a job with the agency (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) working for the Office of the Chief Clerk. I was the agenda coordinator for the commissioners. It was a non-attorney job, but I took it in the hope that I’d become an attorney here and to gain experience in environmental law. I took a chance.”

His gamble paid off. After Taylor took the Texas bar exam and became licensed, he was promoted to the commission’s Litigation Division in the Office of Legal Services.
His year working for the commission as agenda coordinator gave him invaluable experience and insight, he said.

“I was able to see how the other arms of the agency work, how everything fits together,” he said. “My chance to interact with the commissioners themselves, the Office of General Counsel and the different sections at TCEQ was very helpful.

“Now, with the Litigation Division, if there’s a violation of Texas’ environmental law – for instance, a gas station is not performing leak testing on their tanks – it gets referred to me. I take it through the administrative process to try to resolve it through a default order, agreed order or proposal for decision. If I cannot obtain an agreed order, it goes before an administrative law judge for an evidentiary hearing. My job is to prove up the violation at the hearing. The judge will then issue a proposal for decision that will be sent to the commissioners for approval. Default and agreed orders are also sent to the commissioners for approval.”

His experiences at Wayne Law also paved the way for his job as a litigator.

Taylor was involved in the Mock Trial program during all three years of law school. He won first place in fall 2012 and winter 2013 competitions and was the co-chair for the program in 2014.

One of his most memorable law school experiences stems from the 2013 competition, he said.

“It is a thrilling experience when you’re out there in front of the judges arguing against other teams and having to make on the spot evidentiary arguments; it’s very enjoyable and educational,” he said. “It’s still with me now. I think now when I have a case: What did I do then? What worked and what didn’t?”

In summer 2012, he worked as a student attorney for the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender and had a chance to argue for clients then, too.

Another valuable law school experience for Taylor was his two semesters working as a student attorney with Wayne Law’s Transnational Environmental Law Clinic under the direction of Assistant (Clinical) Professor Nick Schroeck.

“My job with the clinic was to research the Interstate 94 expansion project’s final environmental impact statement,” Taylor said.

He met with community groups to hear their concerns about the freeway project and wrote a legal letter to state agencies on behalf of the those groups, including the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center of which Schroeck is executive director.

“I learned more about environmental law that way,” Taylor said. “That experience of seeing the day-to-day work of an environmental lawyer was invaluable.”

Taylor began his collegiate studies thinking he’d like to be an engineer, but changed his goal along the way to becoming a teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies and history for secondary education at Eastern Michigan University and went on to teach English as a second language in South Korea for a year before the seeds sown at the family dinner table took root and led him to law school.

He chose Wayne Law after visiting other law schools.

“Wayne Law felt like home to me,” Taylor said. “I liked the way the professors interacted with students.”

He’s now exactly where he wants to be career-wise.

“I want to develop what I do now,” he said. “I’d like to further my experience down the road, but I’m happy right now. I love being here.”


 

7 questions with Adam Taylor


Q: What advice can you offer beginning law students?

A:
Join any state bar sections that you are interested in, and get out there and meet and talk with attorneys who are doing it now. Volunteer and intern wherever you can. That’s how I got to where I am. I took any experience I could get my hands on. It’s challenging balancing your course load with working, but you have to go out and do it. Also, read the different law journals that are out there. They can pile up, and it’s easy to ignore them. Read them.

Q: Who are some of your role models and inspirations?

A:
Definitely my parents and my wife, Jennifer Hsu. We were married right before I went to law school. She continued working while I went to law school, and the rest of my family helped me, too. I could not have done it without their support. Professors Nick Schroeck and Noah Hall ignited my interest in environmental law by providing support through coursework and then recommendations to help me get my career started.

Q: What sort of kid were you?

A:
Pretty average. I played sports. I grew up being an outdoor kind of guy. My dad taught me how to sail, and most summers we’d be out sailing. In school, I was always applying myself. I worked full time in college, so working in law school wasn’t new to me.

Q: What was your very first job?

A:
I think I was 14 when I worked as a bagger at Kroger.

Q: What is something people don’t know about you, but should?

A:
I’m all about having an enjoyable conversation and meeting new people. I love to travel. I can’t get enough of that. Now my favorite thing to do is to go get my dogs (a beagle and a German shepherd mix) after work and spend a couple of hours hanging out at the dog park here. Sometimes, I walk dogs for the Austin animal shelter.

Q: If not law or teaching, what profession might engage your energy and interest?

A:
If I had lots of money, I’d like to do a nonprofit dog rescue kind of thing.

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

A:
Three things come to mind: Taking first place in the mock trial competitions my second year of law school was a pretty big accomplishment for me. Second, I spent a summer (after being awarded a Wayne Law International Public Interest Law Fellowship) in India working for People’s Watch, a human rights nongovernmental organization. That was a big honor being selected. Third, being certified by exam in both Michigan and Texas. I took back-to-back bar exams and passed. It’s not something I recommend, but it was something I was able to do.

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