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Taylor also has a long-standing working relationship with Boalt Hall law professor Stephen Bundy, who has advised on an as-needed basis. Taylor made Bundy a salaried part-time of counsel in March. Derwin has been co-counsel and consultant to the firm on and off for 17 years. He was bestowed the of counsel title last year.

New hires like Grant notwithstanding, the litigation boutique has had some trouble making people stick. During the first four years at the Ferry Building, where Taylor moved in 2003, three lawyers he brought on as associates left to pursue unrelated areas of law.

Taylor said one lawyer left to travel and consider public interest law and another went on to do public interest work in New Orleans. A third, Tyler Newby, said it wasn’t the salary (Taylor matched the previous $145,000 benchmark being paid for first-years) or the work that caused him to say goodbye to Taylor & Co. in February, but a dream opportunity to work as a prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.


Taylor said work has been on an upswing since moving to the city from Alameda, where he practiced out of a small office with his sail boat docked in the harbor outside.

Take new client Hands-On Mobile Inc. When William McGrath, the San Francisco company’s general counsel, sensed trouble brewing over the hire of seven former Yahoo Inc. engineers, he hired Taylor, thanks to a recommendation from John Keker, who declined to handle the matter at first due to a conflict.

Yahoo sued Hands-On Mobile in February 2006. “We were up against a big firm,” McGrath said. “It was extremely aggressive litigation like I’d never seen before.”

Taylor has a “great instinct for telling when he needs help,” McGrath said, and “will happily and quickly” engage lawyers from firms outside his own. Taylor later was able to retain the Keker firm, after it resolved its conflict, and San Jose-based Berliner Cohen as co-counsel for the year-long dispute with Yahoo, which did much to mitigate the risk of having one small firm handle the case, McGrath said.

Never making it to trial, the case culminated in mediation with JAMS and settled for an undisclosed amount earlier this year. “Steve was consistently giving me feedback that I realized in retrospect was thinking down the road � not about tomorrow � in case we got sued,” McGrath said. “It taught me a lot about how we should be behaving.”

He has since recommended Taylor on numerous occasions. “Not enough people know about him,” McGrath said.

Even opposing counsel rave. Bingham McCutchen partner S. Elaine McChesney calls Taylor a “Renaissance litigator,” one who is not afraid to try a case, but who at the same time knows how and when to negotiate toward settlement. McChesney, a commercial litigator based in Boston, said it is only seldom that she works with boutiques the size of Taylor & Co. because of the nature of her cases, which involve large companies on each side.

McChesney first met Taylor four years ago in a case that involved a compensation dispute between several high-ranking executives and their company. Taylor sent McChesney a draft complaint to open negotiations. Worth millions of dollars, the matter resulted in a confidential settlement, she said. By contrast, McChesney said another attorney in a similar type of casewent to The Wall Street Journal to publicize his complaint without approaching the company in advance. That matter is still ongoing. She said Taylor did not hyper-inflate damages.

“He did away with the hyperbole of who’s right and who’s wrong,” she said. “He presented us with a very thoughtful analysis of the potential range of damages. It was not what you get from a typical plaintiffs lawyer, it was well thought out, backed up by documents and accurate calculations, not a lot of fluff that you tend to get, and it made their approach very credible.”

Impressed, McChesney said she has referred her clients to Taylor when she can’t represent them on the West Coast because of conflicts.

If he is to expand his staff, Taylor might have to contend with what Keker’s Tangri calls an “information deficit” in the general legal community about Taylor’s firm. But if some of the young lawyers knew what partners who have worked with Taylor know, Tangri added, the hiring would probably be easier.

“If I wasn’t working here, that would be the first place I would think about working.”