Montana State University

Leslie Taylor, MSU’s top lawyer, to retire in June

January 27, 2015 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

Leslie Taylor, MSU’s chief legal counsel since 1989, will retire in June from what she says is “one of the best jobs for a lawyer in the world.” MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

Leslie Taylor, who has offered legal counsel to five Montana State University presidents, has announced that she will retire at the end of June.

“I’ve loved this job,” said Taylor, who as chief legal counsel is a key member of MSU’s administrative team. She will retire about 26 years from the day she was hired in June 1989 by then MSU President William Tietz.  

Taylor was a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara who came to Helena to visit her brother, who was a Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) worker, when she said she fell in love with the state. She, too, became a VISTA worker in Helena, then went to work in the state health department before enrolling in the University of Montana Law School, where she obtained her law degree. Following her graduation, she worked in legal services offices in Cut Bank and Missoula, worked in private practice in Helena, then served as a lawyer for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. She was the chief legal counsel for Montana Department of Family Services, primarily working in cases of child abuse and neglect, when she applied for the job at MSU, replacing Roger Flair.

“There really were many issues that I dealt with as an attorney for state agencies that were transferrable to the university setting,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that MSU was quite a different university when she started. There were only about 10,000 students. Registration was done in lines at the gym, and computers and digital information had not impacted the university.

“I remember (former MSU Provost) Mark Emmert coming into my office and saying ‘You have got to see this thing called Mosaic.’ It was the very beginning of the Internet.”

That revolution has affected how Taylor does her work. Taylor said while her office is still lined with law books, most of her research is now computer-based.

Taylor had a front-row seat to the university’s top leaders, and the evolution of MSU to become Montana’s largest university.

“Each president prepares the way for the next president,” she said. “I don’t think we could have the president today without the work done by the previous presidents.”

Current MSU President Waded Cruzado applauds Taylor’s straightforward and thorough professional manner of advising her and her cabinet about legal issues that affect the university that are both diverse and complex.

“During my career I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with high caliber attorneys, among other amazing professionals,” Cruzado said. “Leslie stands at the top of my list as one of the most dedicated and effective individuals. MSU has been fortunate to have her in our ranks. We thank Leslie for her service and wish her well in her retirement.”

Taylor said she has no firm plans for her retirement, although she plans to help in the transition of her successor and looks forward to hiking and traveling more, particularly to visit her grown daughter who now lives in Austin, Texas. The university will begin advertising her job nationally in the near future.

“Being a lawyer is challenging because law deals with challenges,” Taylor said. “So, it will be nice to not have to work  with the challenging situations and the challenging time commitments. But, I’ve enjoyed the work and the people. One of the most stimulating things about this job is that there are very, very bright people who work here researching very interesting things. Through my job, I have learned some of the interesting things and had the pleasure to work with these interesting people. It has been one of the best jobs for a lawyer in the world.”


Leslie Taylor (406) 994-4570,