Bill Walker is a Director with responsibility for originating new business with US law firms and companies.
You were a professional basketball player in Europe before becoming a lawyer. What lessons do you still draw on from your basketball experience?
My experiences as a player—and more importantly as a teammate—during my professional basketball days have had great relevance throughout my career. There are three important lessons that I learned. The first is the ability to take pride in my individual contributions, whether outsiders fully recognized them or not. The second is the value of maintaining a disciplined work ethic to get better as an individual, so that I am always prepared to do the most with the opportunities presented to me. Third, and most importantly, I learned how to be a good teammate. That means not just sharing the glory of winning with others, but also learning how to be humble and receive guidance from those around me and recognizing other players’ value and efforts.
Having practiced both in BigLaw and in-house, how do you explain the different goals of each?
The primary difference between the roles is in the decision-making process. A BigLaw attorney generally works every angle with their client and third parties in a working group to best ensure that a decision is made with the most accurate information and communication possible. This, obviously, requires more time to take the necessary steps. An in-house attorney approaches the same process with the awareness that other pertinent factors shape decisions—most specifically budget. You may also work with a group of colleagues from different functional departments, each with unique perspectives about the costs, value and challenges of the legal decisions being made.
What benefit of legal finance should be better known to litigators?
Legal finance is a “win-win” for everyone—and that’s what litigators, both at firms and in-house, should focus on. Simply put, legal finance can yield three out of four positive outcomes: First, the corporate client receives the necessary service to pursue valid legal claims at no risk; second, the law firm provides services and receives payment regardless of outcome; third, when an adjudication or settlement is made, all parties receive proceeds; and fourth, if there is a negative outcome, the client and law firm owe nothing in return because the legal finance provider bears the downside risk and takes the loss on the investment made.
You previously founded a boutique recruiting and staffing firm and served as a board member and executive at the National Association of African Americans in Human Resources. What advice would you offer to firms hoping to recruit and retain candidates from underrepresented backgrounds?
Firms seeking to hire diverse candidates should focus not just on recruitment but on transparency. Recruitment is just the first step; retention is the main goal. Law firm leaders need to continue to work with candidates from underrepresented backgrounds that they hire to create clear, measurable, recognized and important milestones in candidates’ career paths. Candidates need to see a clear progression toward promotion and equity partnerships.
From my conversations with employee candidates from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, I know and empathize with frustrating “smoke and mirrors” explanations that ignore the realities that impact their careers. As firms widen their recruiting efforts to a more diverse pool of candidates, they need to provide the support and opportunity to help those recruits succeed.
Based on your experience as a business development executive in multiple industries, how can large corporates accelerate their business in the coming year?
Though the pandemic continues to affect business operations, there is an opportunity for large-scale corporates to accelerate their business by creating new streams of revenue. Companies need to better leverage the capabilities of their talented human capital and take advantage of new technologies and services to help them navigate budget and risk uncertainties. Senior finance and legal professionals can use this unpredictable time to recalculate how they interact with other departments to make business decisions and reconsider dormant legal assets, including unenforced judgments, to generate capital and manage budgets. Constant change can be positive in forcing businesses to evolve and encourage new thinking.
Five…favorite action movies that you recommend for family movie nights?
My favorites, subject to the ages of those in your family, are any of the following action movie series:
- James Bond
- The Equalizer
- The Fast & Furious
- The Transporter
- Bad Boys