Judge Zooms Online to Create His New Law Practice After Last Gavel

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Before he served 21 years as a Riverside judge, Rodney L. Walker remembers setting up his first law office. It was in the years before cell phones and faxes. His first purchase: two electric typewriters. 

Now retired, Walker is returning to the practice of law. But he is changing with the times. With a new partner, his son Barry, Judge Walker is relying heavily on the Internet for support. To start, they turned to LegalZoom online documents service to incorporate.

“When you become a judge, you find things that work, and things that don’t work. That’s what happens in the law,” Judge Walker said.

“The stuff that works and has stood the test of time, why would you want to change that? Why go back and reinvent the wheel?”

Judge Walker’s partner is his son Barry—who said he always wanted to practice with his dad.

“When I got out of law school, he was already on the bench, so we couldn’t practice together,” said Barry, 45. “We missed each other by a couple years. So when dad decided to retire, I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t know why we couldn’t start working together!’”

Judge Walker served for 19 years at the Superior Court in Riverside, near Los Angeles, and spent the last two years traveling on special judicial appointments throughout the state. He is 68.

“Because of my varied background, I had just about every assignment that one could have while I was on the bench,’ said Judge Walker. “There are not many judges around who can basically step into any of the jobs.”

Judge Walker served as a public defender, worked as a corporate lawyer, represented banks and did general business litigation. As a judge, he has served in many areas—he was supervising judge of the family law panel, sat in probate, juvenile, criminal law and handled general civil trials.

That breadth of experience gives Judge Walker a unique perspective.

“The most important thing I want from my father is his wise counsel,” said Barry. “The plan is that we are starting out, just the two of us. I’d like to grow the firm. But my sole focus has been as a litigator. How to start a business, how to build a law firm, that’s all new to me. That’s a big part of what my dad will contribute.”

For the senior Walker, there’s the chance to finish a job he feels he never quite completed.

“Everybody always says they want to spend more time with their family but it’s true,” Judge Walker said. “When they were little I was a fireman, I went to law school at night. The job became all encompassing. My firm grew and I took on more responsibility. At one point, I looked around, and my kids were grown.”

“A major regret is that I didn’t spend more time with the kids when they were growing up,” Judge Walker said. “Now I can.”

The judge offered some basic advice to entrepreneurs. Answer the phone on the first ring. Keep the doors open and be there every day. Accommodate the needs of your clients by providing as wide a range of services as possible. Be responsive. Never forget that word of mouth can be the most powerful kind of advertising. Don't wait for business to find you, go find the business. Advertise, get your name out there. Join service clubs and the local Chamber of Commerce.

And most important, take the time necessary to keep your family and your employees happy. Unhappiness from either sector will negatively affect your business, Judge Walker said.

Using LegalZoom to set up the father-son business makes sense. After getting financial and insurance advice, they decided on LegalZoom incorporation. “We think this product will work for us,” Judge Walker said. “It’s a great product. It gets us jump-started.”

“I did not want to do it, I don’t have the time to deal with the forms,” said son Barry. “With LegalZoom available, it’s just too easy to do.”

“It probably won’t be the last time we turn to LegalZoom,” said the elder Walker. “We will probably use the product again so we can get them (our clients) a decent service for a good price. We won’t make any money on it, but it will develop a lot of good will, and do good for our clients.”