Working with smart, funny, and creative people brings lots of rewards. 

This month, one of the smartest, funniest, and most creative people Blawgletter knows (and once had the pleasure of working with) wrote a thought piece on legal blogging — what she calls blawgging.  She titled it "If a Blawgger Blawgs in the Forest and No One Hears . . ."  It appears in the Fall 2010 issue of the Texas State Bar Section of Litigation's News for the Bar at pages 7-9.  And it set us to thinking.

The author, Gretchen Sween, clerked for U.S. District Judge Sim Lake and did stints at our firm and Dechert before this year joining the full-time faculty at the University of Texas School of Law as a Lecturer in the Legal Writing Program.  She knows how to write, as you will see.

Ms. Sween starts by puzzling over the why of blawgging, as in:  "Why have so many lawyers, while tending to busy practices, elected to shoulder the burden of a regular, extracurricular, pro bono writing obligation?"  She pooh-poohs the notion that blawgging pays for itself, citing the lack of "evidence that specific new matters were brought in as a result of someone's blawg." 

Then she surveys lawyer friends about their blawg-reading habits.  Ms. Sween finds that they mainly look at blawgs "whose value is essentially entertainment" or at ones that "offer concrete practical guidance relevant to the lawyer's practice — updates on doctrinal areas of the law with links to original source material (such as judicial opinions) and sites that track trends in growth areas such as mass torts, consumer class actions, and patent infringement litigation." 

"In other words," she says, "lawyers read blawgs that would be completely unappealling to non-lawyer mortals."

Ms. Sween then raises the question:

If that is correct — that lawyers do not spend much time reading blawgs that aren't really practical — can the countless (potentially billable) hours that various lawyers and law firms devote to the thousands of blawgs that are now out there be justified?  That is, if blawgging really does not work well as a marketing tool per se, is it worth the challenges associated with simultaneously trying to serve colleagues and once-and-future clients through witty, helpful, accurate, current commentary related to some niche legal market?

Her tentative answer?  "Blawggers seem to believe — and rightfully so — that the act of blawgging can actually make the blawgger a better lawyer."  It does so, she suggests, because the act of writing about a subject "deepens understanding and increases the probability that one will retain the information" and because it "requires great discipline."  Those benefits may result in "economic" gain as well as "greater professional satisfaction", she concludes.

If you've read this far, you may wonder what we think about Ms. Sween's points.  Because we like you so much, we will now tell you.

Almost no one tracks the economic plus side of blawgging.  We'd guess the track-lack happens either because the aspiring tracker can't figure out how to do it in a reliable way or because he or she doesn't really want to know the answer.  

Sometimes you can tie a contact directly to a blawg post or to the blawg more generally — as when someone emails you about a post and invites a response.  But what value does such a contact produce?  A chance to look at a case counts for something, surely.  But unless the look results in retention and the retention generates a fee, you can't assign to the post, or the blawg, a dollar value.

What about indirect results?  What if a subscriber knows you already and, at the moment he or she needs the kind of legal help you provide, reads an on-point post you've just written — and calls you?  Or a potential client looking for a lawyer reads your web profile, clicks on the link to your blawg, confirms a positive image of you — and asks for a meeting?  Those should count, of course.  But imagine the challenges of putting an economic value on the part the blawg played.

The dollars and cents analysis of the cost side, on the other hand, goes much easier.  Multiply the number of your posts by the average time you spent writing them and multiply the result by your hourly rate, and — presto — you have a good idea of what you've invested. 

No wonder no one can say whether a blawg pays for itself.

So what of Ms. Sween's professional development idea?  We we agree with her.  In our area of the law, complex business cases, people you most need to persuade – judges, jurors, clients – desire you to digest and simplify Byzantine facts, reconcile welters of conflicting legal precedents, cut a path to victory, and tell a compelling story all the while.  Practicing to write — and therefore speak — in compelling bursts helps you get better at that difficult assignment.

A final word.  Blawgging at its best and most useful engages your readers.  It pays them the compliment of asking them to think.  The smarter, funnier, and more creative your audience, the greater your rewards.  Especially if then you get to work with them.

Email this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Barry Barnett Barry Barnett

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck…

Clients and colleagues call Barry Barnett an “incredibly gifted lawyer” (Chambers and Partners) who is “magic in the courtroom” (Who’s Who Legal), “the top antitrust lawyer in Texas” (Chambers and Partners), and “a person of unquestioned integrity” (David J. Beck, founder of Beck Redden).

Barnett is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and Lawdragon has named him one of the top 500 lawyers in the United States three years in a row. Best Lawyers in America has honored him as “Lawyer of the Year” for Bet-the-Company Litigation (2019 and 2017) and Patent Litigation (2020) in Houston. Based in Texas and New York, Barnett has tried complex business disputes across the United States.

Barnett’s background, training, and experience make him indispensable to his clients. The small-town son of a Texas roughneck and grandson of a Texas sharecropper, Barnett “developed an unusual common sense about people, their motivations, and their dilemmas,” according to former client Michael Lewis.

Barnett has been historically recognized for his effectiveness and judgment. His peers chose him, for example, to the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. His decades of trial and appellate work representing both plaintiffs and defendants have made him a master strategist and nimble tactician in complex disputes.

Barnett focuses on enforcement of antitrust laws, the “Magna Carta of free enterprise,” in Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s memorable phrase. “Barry is one of the nation’s outstanding antitrust lawyers,” according to Joseph Goldberg, a member of the Private Antitrust Enforcement Hall of Fame. Named among Texas’s top ten antitrust lawyers of 2023, Business Today calls Barnett a “trailblazer” among the “distinguished legal minds” who “dedicate their skill and expertise to the maintenance of healthy competition in various sectors” of the Lone Star State’s booming economy. Barnett is also adept in energy and intellectual property matters and has battled for clients against a Who’s Who list of corporate behemoths, including Abbott Labs, Alcoa, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Broadcom, Comcast, Dow, JPMorgan Chase, Samsung, and Visa.

Barnett commands a courtroom with calm and credibility and “is the perfect lawyer for bet the company litigation,” said Scott Regan, General Counsel of former client Whiting Petroleum. His performance before the Supreme Court in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend prompted the Court to withdraw the question on which it had granted review. The judge in a trial involving mobile phone technology called Barnett “one of the best” and that his opening statement the finest he had ever seen. Another trial judge told Barnett minutes after a jury returned a favorable verdict against the county’s biggest employer that he was one of the two best trial lawyers he’d ever come across—adding that the other one was dead.

A versatile trial lawyer, Barnett knows how to handle a case all the way from strategic pre-suit planning to affirmance on appeal. He’s tried cases to verdict and then briefed and argued them when they went before appellate courts, including the Second, Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and (in the case of Comcast Corp. v. Behrend) the Supreme Court of the United States.

Barnett is a sought-after public speaker, often serving on panels and talking about topics like the trials of antitrust class actions and techniques for streamlining complex litigation. He also comments on trends in commercial litigation and the implications of major rulings for outlets such as NPR, Reuters, Law360, Corporate Counsel, and The Dallas Morning News. He’s even appeared in a Frontline program about underfunding of state pensions, authored chapters on “Fee Arrangements” and “Techniques for Expediting and Streamlining Litigation” (the latter with Steve Susman) in the ABA’s definitive treatise on Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Courts, 5th, and commented on How Antitrust Enforcers Might Think Like Plaintiffs’ Lawyers.

Clients and other hard graders have praised Barnett for his courtroom skills and legal acumen.

A client in a $100 million oil and gas case, which Barnett’s team won at trial and held on appeal, said Barnett and his team “presented a rare combination of strong legal intellect, common sense about right and wrong, and credibility in the courtroom.” David McCombs at Haynes and Boone said Barnett “has a natural presence that goes over well with juries and judges.”

Even former adversaries give Barnett high marks. Lead opposing counsel in a decade-long antitrust slugfest said “Barry is a highly skilled advocate. He understands what really matters in telling a narrative and does so in a very compelling manner.”

Barnett relishes opportunities to collaborate with all kinds of people. At the Center for American and International Law (CAIL), founded by a former prosecutor at Nuremberg in 1947 and headquartered in the Dallas area, he has served on the Executive Committee, co-chaired the committee that produced CAIL’s first-ever strategic plan, supported CAIL’s Institute for Law Enforcement Administration and other development efforts, and proposed formation of a new Institute for Social Justice Law. CAIL’s former President David Beck said “Barry is extremely bright” and is “very well prepared in every lawsuit or professional task he undertakes.”

Barnett is also a Trustee of the New-York Historical Society, a Sterling Fellow at Yale, a member of the Yale University Art Gallery’s Governing Board, a winner of the Class Award for his work on behalf of his college class, and a proud contributor to the Yellow Ribbon Program at Harvard Law. Barnett’s pro bono work includes leading the trial team representing people who are at greatest risk of severe illness and death as a result of being exposed to the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 while being detained in the Dallas County jail—work for which he received the NGAN Legal Advocacy Fund RBG Award.

At Susman Godfrey, Barnett has served on the firm’s Executive Committee, Employment Committee, and ad hoc committees on partner compensation, succession of leadership, and revision of the firm’s partnership agreement. He also twice chaired the Practice Development Committee.

Barnett understands that clients face many pressures. Managing the stress is important, especially in matters that take years to resolve. He encourages clients to call him whenever they have a question or concern and to keep the inevitable ups and downs in perspective. He wants them to know that he will do his level best to help them achieve their goals. He also strives to foster trust and to make working with him a pleasure.

Cyrus “Skip” Marter, the General Counsel of Bonanza Creek in Denver and a former Susman Godfrey partner and client, said Barnett is “excellent about communicating with clients in a full and honest manner” and can “negotiate for his clients from a position of strength, because he is not afraid to take a case through a full trial on the merits.” Stacey Doré, the President of Hunt Utility Services and a former client, said that Barnett is “an excellent trial lawyer and the person you want to hire for your bet-the-company cases. He is client focused, responsive, and uniquely savvy about trial and settlement strategy.” A New York colleague said, “Barry is a joy to work with as co-counsel. He tackles complex procedural and factual hurdles capably, efficiently, and without drama.”

Barnett’s wide-ranging experience and calm, down-to-earth approach enable him to connect with clients, judges, jurors, witnesses, and even opposing counsel. He grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas. He co-captained his high school varsity football team as an All-East Texas middle linebacker while also serving as the Editor of Key Club’s Texas-Oklahoma District, won the Best Typist award, took the History Team to glory, and sang in the East Texas All Region Choir. As Dan Kelly of client Vistra Corp. put it, Barnett is “a great person to be around.”

Barnett is steady and loyal. He has practiced at Susman Godfrey his entire career. He and his wife Nancy live in Dallas and enjoy spending time in Houston and New York. Their daughter works for H-E-B in Houston, and their son is a Haynes and Boone transactions lawyer in Dallas.

As a member of Ivy League championship football teams in his junior and senior years at Yale and a parent of two Yalies, Barnett has no trouble choosing sides for “The Game” in November. And he knows how important fighting all the way to the end is. On his last play from scrimmage, in the waning minutes of The Game on Nov. 22, 1980, he recovered a Crimson fumble.

Yale won, 14-0.