For lawyers like Ashton Taylor of the A. Taylor Law Firm, recent months have brought rapid change. Ashton, like many lawyers dedicated to using their knowledge and skills to support their communities, has embraced and leveled up his technology, apps, client services, and equipment at a much more accelerated rate than expected.
We were delighted to sit down with this valued Ruby customer to hear about what has worked, what hasn’t, and how changes have revolutionized his service and trajectory.
Read the Interview
Jill McKenna: So first, this is my first time getting to talk to you, which I’m super excited about. So I’m Jill, I’m the Brand Manager here at Ruby. Do you mind please telling us a little bit about yourself and your work?
Okay. I’m a small business owner, as you said, an attorney here in Texas. I’ve been practicing on my own for about nine years—well, it’ll be 10 years this year. I started back in early 2011. My background is in accounting and finance. I worked in corporate America and oil and gas accounting finance here in Houston, Austin area. I decided to go to law school, like a midlife crisis thing. A lot of people go backpacking and jumping out of planes—I just decided to go to law school. I went to law school up here in Texas at Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University and got out. It was a change for me.
School was challenging. I was an older student at the time and just wasn’t used to studying and staying up late and having the weekends where I still had to work. I was working in corporate America. As you know, in business, the weekends were for me. But back in school, it was changed because it wasn’t really any weekends. You just worked through the weekends—Sundays, Saturdays, the same. So that was a big adjustment for me, and it was a different industry. Fast forward—I finished, passed the bar exam. My wife—she wasn’t my wife at the time, but she’s my wife now—she’s an attorney here in Texas and she was just looking for jobs and everything, so I came back and I just started my own firm.
In the beginning, I was just doing anything that came into the door. Because I was on my own, I didn’t have a lot of money for overhead, so I had to get the computer and thank God, my wife, we got married, so she had health insurance, so I didn’t have to worry about that, which was a tremendous blessing.
I was able to do a lot of same kind of work with people that couldn’t really afford attorneys. A lot of my work was court-appointed and court-appointed attorneys, indigent defense work. I did some car accidents and things of that sort.
To fast-forward, over the past 10 years, that business has just grown. And I didn’t do a lot of advertising. I was just blessed to get caught appointments, and through that, get some private business also through Facebook and friends of friends, and things of that sort. I have a good foundation of colleagues and friends from working in the corporate world—and then being from New Orleans, a lot of people that transitioned from New Orleans to Houston in ’05 from Katrina.
The thing about New Orleans—and like you were saying earlier about you being from Chicago—New Orleanians like to put their faith in other New Orleanians. That helped me out being in this big pond in Texas, because everybody that I knew with the Louisiana connection would still come to me and, thank God, give me the business.
I’ve touched every area of the law that’s on a solo basis—family law, criminal defense, I had a business client, breach of contract fraud, I’ve been in federal court, probate, wills, estate planning—and that goes back to my accounting background, I was able to do that. But just now, it’s been good. I’ve been able to hire some other associates. I have another full-time attorney who’s working with me now. She came on staff, and so that’s where I am. I have been pretty successful, I will admit, but up to the pandemic…I’ll stop there and explain to you now where I am.
So, first of all, how did COVID change the kind of businesses that are coming to you?
To be honest, I’m a community attorney, I feel like. Like I said, I don’t advertise, I’m not on a billboard, but I represent a lot of people in my inner circle, which is in my community. I come from New Orleans—I come from an “impoverished background”. My parents were great. My parents always had us in the best schools and everything like that. So I’m not going to tell that story, like, “I didn’t have any money.” My parents took care of us. They took care of us. But I know that area because I know that, so most of my clientele are people that are low-income. And especially when COVID hit, because like I said, I do get court appointed when it comes to criminal, but a lot of people in family law—because I have a big family law business—that are dealing with divorces and child custody issues, I still have to charge them.
When COVID hit, all the family law business went that way—went up—but the people didn’t have money to pay for an attorney. I had to start just taking things and working with people with payment plans, and it was really, really frustrating, because the level of someone, maybe full-time employer not knowing if they were going to continue to work—I know I have a lot of friends and clients that are bartenders, that work in the hospitality industry, and so you know what happened with restaurants and bars, they immediately shut down. So a lot of my clientele or a lot of people that needed the family law because they’re shut down, but people still have those children issues and those custody issues: “Oh, it’s a lockdown. I don’t want my kids to go to online schooling.” So the issues just went up, but the money didn’t. That was a big challenge. My family, my business—it picked up, but I had to turn down a lot of cases because people didn’t have the money to pay me.
Wow. I mean, talk about a shift in structure, and I feel like we’re seeing that in so many ways. There’s healthcare—people who are out of work can’t afford it. So all of a sudden I feel like we’re seeing more sliding scale, we’re seeing more payment programs arising, and probably that’s an overdue thing for our economy.