Features

Richard Taylor – Nordic Naturals

Reversing a stroke of bad luck

He’s at an age when he could retire, but the 72-year-old Richard Taylor asks what’s the sense in that. Look at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Vatican and other august organizations, and he reminds you’ll find people older than him. Furthermore, some actors, artists and musicians of that vintage are still sustaining their careers.

“When you like what you do and don’t find it laborious or stressful, why not continue doing it?” Taylor rhetorically asks while interviewed by Vanguard in June. “I’m still going strong.”

Richard Taylor | Corporate Legal Counsel | Nordic Naturals

Richard Taylor | Corporate Legal Counsel | Nordic Naturals

Mentally, that is, though not so much physically for in January 2022, Taylor suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and hospitalized for over a month—and mulling retirement from his position since 2012 as corporate legal counsel of Nordic Naturals. But the California-based manufacturer of health supplements gave him every disincentive to call it quits, paying his full salary during rehab and allowing a gradual return while affording Taylor two months’ dwelling on the first floor of a company-owned house near Watsonville, California, headquarters. His paralegal, Gema Lopez-Smith, held the proverbial fort.

The worst of his ordeal hopefully over, Taylor says he’s mentally, emotionally and spiritually sound though still hindered by physical limitations that put tennis and weight-training on hold. Stroke recovery, he emphasizes, is a long, non-linear process that takes much fortitude.

“It’s two steps forward and one step back,” he says. “A marathon, not a sprint. While I’m not happy with the speed of my physical recovery, I’m settled in to peacefully accepting that I will recover with continued effort.”

At the very least, Taylor’s recovered sufficiently to resume full-time responsibilities as Nordic Naturals’ sole in-house lawyer, and that can be a demanding role for any attorney.

To your health

As the world turns more health conscientious, Nordic Naturals seeks to reap the benefits as a leader in omega-rich products. Its vitamins A and D and fatty acid are an elixir for immune system function, cellular growth, eye health and reproduction. The company also deals in probiotics for digestive health, many types of vitamins and minerals, gummies and even pet products.

But while Nordic Naturals vows to obsessively test its products, the company still can be targeted by class-action litigation alleging deceptive labeling, for which Taylor takes much exception.

“We have all the studies to show that our claims are backed by science,” he assures. “Virtually all the plaintiff claims aren’t meritorious and in my 11 years here, we’ve never paid a settlement stemming from a class action and have gotten many dismissed early.”

Richard Taylor | Corporate Legal Counsel | Nordic Naturals

While Taylor doesn’t litigate these cases, he vets and manages the law firms that do, expecting them to complement the company’s culture, understand product lines and work within budget.

“To use a medical analogy, I’m the general practitioner for the company,” he says. “Outside of it, we sometimes need surgeons and I’ve developed a network of people I can trust when it’s necessary to call them.”

It’s all the better if any kind of litigation can be averted, and for that Taylor touts the virtues of being proactive rather than reactive. Tend to the process and he says the goals will be realized through the minding of details in commercial contracting, trademarking, personnel matters, partnerships with retailers and more. And there’s much to do on all those fronts for Taylor and the paralegal and administrative aide who work under him.

“My plate’s full,” Taylor says. “I’m more efficient but we’ve grown so much in 11 years that we’ll probably need to hire more legal.”

Motion’s the potion

Whatever the load, he’s glad to be back and contributing on a full-time basis. How humbling Taylor says the past couple years have been. Pre-2022, one might have been hard-pressed to find a more physically fit septuagenarian than this man who played tennis six days a week, had coached a high school team for 17 years, lifted weights four days a week and tended to a garden.

But life can throw a curve ball with character measured in response, and Taylor says he’s found positives aplenty since becoming physically challenged. It’s all the more reason to excel at what you still can do, he says, and his mind remains acute. That alone precludes self-pity, Taylor revealing how he lost his mother and a brother to Alzheimer’s.

“The stroke made me take another look at life and realize what’s really important,” he says. “It’s a tremendous blow but if I hadn’t had it, my relationships with friends and family might not have been so enriched.”

Richard Taylor | Corporate Legal Counsel | Nordic Naturals

His wife—“my Rock of Gibraltar”—has stood by him and they’re back in their own home after the two months at the Nordic Naturals’ accommodations. Though always close to his two adult daughters and son, he says the ties have grown tighter and the same goes for his friends.

“They were there for rides to the doctor, for meals, for companionship,” he says. “They were phenomenal. I couldn’t have done it alone.”

And while Taylor isn’t religious in the traditional sense, he says he’s on a higher spiritual realm, one that gives him greater appreciation for all that’s right in his world. On that note, maybe his coming to Nordic Naturals as a 60-year-old was meant to be.

Some of his contemporaries might have wondered how he and Nordic Naturals could be such a good fit. Taylor, after all, had more than three decades of private practice on his resume, and in-house law is another ballgame. Furthermore, much as most companies deny ageism as a hiring factor, it’s common knowledge that practically all prefer younger or midcareer lawyers to lead their legal departments.

Encouraged by a friend and Taylor already being a Nordic Naturals customer, he made his successful pitch to be the company’s first in-house lawyer, picked from among 150 or so prospects. Having played competitive sports since boyhood, the company’s emphasis on health and fitness appealed to him, as did its progressive personnel policies that Taylor would experience first-hand.

Loyalty’s a two-way street, he says, and Nordic Naturals has more than lived up to its end and as long as he’s mentally fit and passionate, he’ll stay around.

“I still have the capacity for a rich and fulfilling life,” he says. “My analytical ability and problem-solving skills have improved, and I plan on going back to coaching tennis next year.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.

Published on: August 18, 2023

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