Carroll's county attorney traded concerts for court Pianist: Chief counsel Laurell E. Taylor abandoned a music career for law, but she still likes to tickle the ivories.

October 11, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

If visitors to the Carroll County Attorney's Office see chief counsel Laurell E. Taylor tapping her fingers on a table top, it may not be a show of boredom.

It could be a sign that Taylor -- who was named county attorney late last month -- is fingering a Bach melody.

Music is her first love. And when Taylor came to Maryland from San Pedro, Calif., 27 years ago, it was to study classical piano at Towson State University.

"They had a fantastic teacher I wanted to study with," she said. "He was a former student of Leon Fleischer," the world-renowned pianist.

After Taylor, 47, graduated summa cum laude with a degree in music performance, she began graduate work in music history at the University of Maryland.

"Music historians get into it just like lawyers." she said. "But I realized I could not raise a family on the salary I would get. So I switched to law. I haven't regretted it at all. It's never been boring. Never!"

Nonetheless, Taylor looks forward to buying a baby grand piano soon and getting back to sharing chamber music with friends.

"I'm really excited about it," she said.

Taylor plays down her academic excellence with typical self-deprecating humor.

"They didn't count my California grades," she said. "When I came to Maryland [at age 20], I was a little more mature."

She followed her academic honors at Towson with similar grades at the University of Baltimore School of Law, earning her juris doctorate magna cum laude.

After law school, she became law clerk for a maestro of a differ- ent sort -- Judge Alan M. Wilner, whose display of legal skills as chief judge of Maryland's Court of Special Appeals has become legendary.

"It was a great experience," Taylor said.

Taylor joined the Carroll County Attorney's Office in November 1987 as an assistant attorney and was promoted to senior assistant attorney in December 1995. She became acting county attorney in October 1997.

When asked if she got a raise last month when she was named county attorney, Taylor laughed.

"It's two dollars more a year," she said, explaining that as acting county attorney, she was paid for a 40-hour week, but as county attorney she will be paid for 37 1/2 hours a week -- $62,985 a year.

Taylor said she plans to strengthen her office soon by adding another trial lawyer to her social services staff.

One of the projects initiated under her tutelage is the recodification of county laws -- a process that started in July and will take about two years to complete, she said.

The county's roughly 170 ordinances have been enacted chronologically, she said, which means that if someone wants to know what Carroll's impact fee law is, that person would have to look at three ordinances, each enacted in a different year, to find out what the original law was and how it was later amended, she said.

"Something could slip through the cracks," she said. "We need to have it all together."

Her goal is to reduce the county's 170 ordinances to 50 or 60 and bring everything together topically so that no one would ever again have to look in more than one place to learn what Carroll County law says about a subject.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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