John Walker ’93 leaves longtime role as partner to co-found a boutique commercial law firm that prioritizes diversity and work-life balance

John Walker ’93 had spent the majority of his career as a partner at Dentons—a multinational law firm that employs more lawyers than any other firm in the world—when he decided to embark on a new venture. Walker joined Jennifer Yu Sacro, then a litigation partner at Palmer, Lombardi & Donohue, to establish Sacro & Walker, a commercial law firm focused on litigation. Walker and his partner shared a common vision of creating a firm that prized diversity in the workplace, work-life balance for its employees, and affordable legal fees for its clients.

John Walker '93

Now, just over a year after its founding, Sacro & Walker is a successful boutique firm, employing five attorneys and two paralegals. As the firm has developed, Walker and Sacro have placed great importance on ensuring that they are creating a workplace that prioritizes diversity within the firm and in the legal field at large. The partners believe that diverse backgrounds help the firm come up with creative solutions for clients who themselves come from varied backgrounds and serve diverse markets. It was also important to both Walker and his partner, each a parent of young children, to build an environment in which they and their employees would be able to balance work and home life. Walker explains that one of their lawyers, a mother of three, is able to work flexible days and partially from home—a customized arrangement that is often difficult to obtain in larger firms.

When Walker began his career at Dentons—then called Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal—the Los Angeles office was relatively small and focused on litigation for the insurance and commercial aircraft industries. Those early years enabled him to develop a strong background in commercial and complex business litigation. “It was a really great experience,” Walker says. “Dentons is a first-rate firm with exceptional legal talent. My mentors taught me the importance of rolling up your sleeves and spending long hours doing the required analysis and case preparation needed to get good results.” When Walker became a partner in 2000, he had established himself as an accomplished advocate with expertise in defending individuals and businesses against tort and breach of contract claims.

“John is a great lawyer—bright, tenacious, conscientious, responsive,” says Carol Mauch Amir ’94, senior vice president and general counsel of the University of Southern California and Walker’s former classmate. “His clients contract with him for his personal prowess and ability to give good advice and strategize to obtain great results.”

At Sacro & Walker, Walker continues his work in business and insurance coverage litigation. In addition to representing large companies, Walker explains that the firm’s rate structure makes it possible to work for the underserved legal market of individuals who cannot afford the rates at larger law firms, but do not qualify for free legal services either. “These are people who might not be entitled to pro-bono services at large firms because they are solvent,” Walker says. “They nonetheless are in acute need of able and affordable legal representation.”

Walker credits the importance Sacro & Walker places on creating a strong community to his experience as a law student. He chose to attend NYU Law in part because his older brother William Walker ’88, a partner at Greenberg Glusker, had a great experience at the Law School. As John Walker followed his older brother’s path, he, too, cherished the community he found. Walker says that, as a student, he was particularly struck by a speech given by then-Dean John Sexton, Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law and University President Emeritus. “He talked about the architecture of the Law School and how Vanderbilt Hall has two arms reaching to embrace the community,” he says. “Opening our law firm has been in step with the values I learned at NYU Law and the school’s emphasis on community.” 

Posted April 17, 2017