When Rachel Taylor moved to Canada in 2008, she and her husband bought a fixer-upper in Bridgetown with plans to take a year off to renovate. It didn’t work out quite like that.
“After a few months I was going crazy,” she said. “I’m not a stay-at-home kind of person. I saw the job advertised for the exhibition and just knew that was something I was going to find very interesting.”
She got the job and for the next eight years managed the Annapolis Valley Exhibition and became a fixture across the Valley – at least in agricultural circles. Now she’s changed it up again by dusting off a law degree and joining a well-known firm in Middleton.
“I actually studied for my law degree in England years ago when I was a regular-age student like everybody else,” Taylor said. “I went into management after my law degree because I was working retail, a job to do whilst I was at university and I enjoyed it so much. They asked me to go on a management scheme and it went from there.”
So she worked in management for many years before making the move to Bridgetown.
Return To Law
That move brought the new house, new job, and a couple of years later a son James who is now eight.
“When James started to get a bit older I kind of thought, ‘you know what? I really should do something with that law degree because that’s a little bit of a waste of three years of studying. All that work I put into it,’” she said. “I didn’t really make a concrete plan, but then a friend of mine, whose dad is a lawyer in Nova Scotia, got talking to me one time and just really re-ignited my interest in the law.”
That something turned out to be nine three-hour challenge exams to convert her English degree into a Canadian degree. She did that over the course of a year and a half. Then she got a call from a firm in Kentville where she articled for a year. A call from Bruce Gillis at Durland, Gillis and Shackleton in Middleton followed, with a job offer.
“He said he was looking for somebody to step in so he can start stepping back a little bit,” Taylor said. “He still keeps a very busy practice. For him to step back a bit would be full time to most people.”
At first she was hesitant.
“I was really enjoying where I was and I felt like I owed something to the person who was training me,” she said. “But after a while travelling to Kentville everyday, and winter travelling, I kind of figured I really need to make the move.”
Gillis agreed Taylor is a good fit.
“I knew that Rachel was articling and that she was going to finish her bar admission course,” he said. “And about the time she was done, it occurred to us that we were overloaded here. She’s fit right in.”
Taylor moved in to her new 74 Commercial St. office on Jan. 21 and hasn’t looked back.
“We are a full practice so I do a lot of family law, I do civil litigation, I do small claims, wills and probate, estate work,” Taylor said, “and obviously property law. So between us all there’s not much that we don’t cover.”
They do business law and Taylor has even done some criminal law.
“Over the years this firm has had as many as five people working as partners at one time or another,” said Gillis, “but for the last seven or eight years there have been two.”
And then partner Blaine Schumacher retired.
“Just by chance Maggie Shackleton’s dad was in to see me about a file and he happened to mention his daughter had graduated from law school in Fredericton and couldn’t find an articling job.”
She was at the local firm in a week.
“She took over Schumacher’s office when she got admitted to the bar and within a few weeks she took over completely,” said Gillis. “That was good but we were still finding ourselves stretched. That’s why we went looking for someone like Rachel.”
Now they have three practicing lawyers and a staff of six.
Loved The Ex
Taylor and Gillis had known each other for a number of years. Gillis was even on the exhibition board of directors at one time.
“It wasn’t like coming to work in a new place,” said Taylor.
As for the Annapolis Valley Exhibition in Lawrencetown, she can still talk about horse pulls, cattle barns, and the midway. It got into her blood.
“I loved the exhibition. I’m absolutely passionate about the exhibition and I still am to this day,” she said. “I’m a volunteer director now. I’m still heavily involved in exhibition. I’m just not there day to day.”