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Breaking the Ice: Father’s advice guides approach to business law

Todd Nelson//December 24, 2019//

Breaking the Ice: Father’s advice guides approach to business law

Todd Nelson//December 24, 2019//

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Name: Todd Taylor

Title: Shareholder and CEO, Avisen Legal

Education: B.A., political science, history, University of St. Thomas; J.D., William Mitchell College of Law

Todd Taylor, shareholder and CEO of Avisen Legal, lives by the advice his father, a 3M executive, gave him before he went to law school.

“He said, ‘Just don’t be one of those lawyers that tells me no,’” Taylor said. “‘Help people find a way.’”

Taylor does that through counseling companies that are expanding, growing or buying or selling businesses at Avisen, a boutique business law firm in Minneapolis that he launched in 2017.

Most clients are tech companies focusing on energy, clean tech or sustainability, areas in which Taylor is a national expert.

Taylor has worked on financing for rapidly growing 75F, the Burnsville-based developer of software that improves energy efficiency of commercial buildings, and Tru Shrimp, a sustainable food production company in Balaton that’s planning a larger project in South Dakota.

Taylor is the only attorney in Minnesota and one of 27 nationally to be a certified mergers and acquisitions adviser.

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: I always want to know what people have a passion about.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally? 

A: I’d love to give you a good story about pursuit of justice, but when I was studying for an MBA, I watched the movie “Barbarians at the Gate” about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco and was fascinated with the high finance and deal making. The story focused on the personal aspect of deal making, and that appealed to me. For all the financial data used to make decisions, the deal (like all deals) came down to people making emotional choices. Being able to help clients make good choice in the midst of high-stress situations really appealed to me.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: Cork Dork.” “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” “Pitch Anything.” And always, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” my personal favorite.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?

A: Repeating oneself and people listening merely to talk, not to listen.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: I have a passion to help people achieve their goals. I always start discussions with new clients with a question about their goals by asking “where do you see yourself in a year?” I then help them work backwards to do what is necessary to get there.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Technical drafting of contracts. I am more of a big-picture counselor. Hammering out section after section of a contract is something I can and do do, but it’s not what I get up for in the morning.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: I love learning about and enjoying wine. Wine is an interesting scientific topic and an emotional pleasure. It reflects my approach to practicing law.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do? 

A: If summer, boating on Lake Minnetonka and if winter, Florida.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: Frank Harvey at Larkin Hoffman. Frank is a great person and terrific counselor. He gave me some of the best advice I ever received: “Provide excellent service to your clients, everything else follows.” I’d be honored if people compared me favorably to Frank.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: That my life is like a TV show like “Suits.” I call myself a “counselor” a lot rather than a lawyer or attorney to distinguish myself from litigators. We don’t litigate at Avisen. So don’t ask me about suing your neighbor or getting out of a DUI.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: Shows like “Silicon Valley” or “Billions” better depict what I do and the clients I serve than any TV show specifically about lawyers.

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