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A matter of practice

Founding partner of city law firm still working at 90

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Reeh Taylor is embarrassed by all the fuss, but when you're one of the oldest practising lawyers in the country, people raise a glass on your birthday.

One of the founding partners of the Taylor McCaffrey LLP law firm is celebrating his 90th birthday today.

"All you do is hang around and a birthday will come along as long as you're on the right side of the ground," he said with a laugh.

(And yes, he's the "Taylor" in the firm's moniker. His first name is pronounced "Ray.")

Even though nobody would begrudge him sleeping in the odd day, Taylor keeps a schedule that could easily be mistaken for that of an articling student hoping to catch on with full-time work. He usually arrives at the office around 8:30 a.m. five or six days a week and he leaves by 5 p.m.

'It's a matter of old habits dying hard. I was saying to my wife the other day that many years ago, my objective was to get home before the 11 o'clock news. In more recent years, the objective changed to the six o'clock news'

"It's a matter of old habits dying hard. I was saying to my wife the other day that many years ago, my objective was to get home before the 11 o'clock news. In more recent years, the objective changed to the six o'clock news," he said.

A corporate and commercial lawyer, Taylor's practice includes a wide range of areas, including wills and estates, and real estate.

The native of Forest, Ont., was involved in dispute resolution of an altogether different sort as a young man. After being raised in England, he joined the navy and served in the Second World War.

Ever modest, he downplayed his military role, saying he didn't see "too many shots fired in anger."

He arrived in Normandy shortly after D-Day, by which time he said most of the army and air force had cleared out a "pedestrian walk across the (English) channel." He also served in Burma before returning to England in 1946. Shortly after, he moved to Winnipeg. (He claims he couldn't stand the wet weather.)

He graduated from law school here and was called to the bar in 1951.

After working at a small firm for a number of years right out of law school, he joined Richardson & Co., a shop that boasted both future mayor Bill Norrie and future Manitoba Court of Appeal judge Charles Huband. He was eventually asked to become a partner. After a number of firm mergers, noted litigator D'Arcy McCaffrey was brought on board and Taylor McCaffrey was born in 1979. Today, it is one of the biggest law firms in the province, with 65 lawyers.

Taylor said many things have changed from when he started out, not the least of which is the attitude among his fellow lawyers.

"I find the profession these days takes itself so bloody seriously. We write stiff letters to each other. We don't have the colourful characters that gave life to the profession around (as much). We've become a little too fond of ourselves," he said.

(Taylor notes the legal community has had its fair share of alcoholics over the years, "most of whom were probably better counsel drunk than a lot of the other guys sober.")

Even though he's a full quarter-century past the traditional retirement age, he has no intention of hanging up his robes and every intention of going out with his boots on.

"If I start to become a danger to the firm, I hope to God somebody will let me know soon enough. That's a very tough thing for one's partners to do but it's absolutely essential," he said.

Taylor has been married to his bride, Pamela, for 66 years.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 13, 2014 B5

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