TipsAnd, now — the second half of my Tips on Working with Me memo.

Write well

​I don’t expect you to write precisely as I do. You shouldn’t. You have your own voice. Most people never find theirs (or don’t have a good one), and many of those who do find it discover it through hard work and trial and error.

Parker Folse writes beautiful prose but in a style very different from mine. Pick up from me (and others) anything you find useful and discard the rest.

My views about writing include these:

a. Dislikes

i. passive voice,

ii. the word “clearly”,

iii. misspellings,

iv. verbs that don’t agree with subjects,

v. legalese,

vi. leaving out an open or close parenthesis or a quotation mark,

vii. starting a quotation with an ellipsis,

viii. block quotes,

ix. non-Blue Book citation form,

x. reciting the other side’s argument without – in the same sentence – trashing it,

xi. calling parties “plaintiffs” and “defendants” instead of by their names,

xii. unimportant facts,

xiii. failure to check citations,

xiv. verbosity,

xv. unnecessarily repetitive use of a word or phrase,

xvi. burying important arguments or authorities in footnotes,

xvii. split infinitives,

xviii. phrases like “in the end” or “after all”,

xix. personal attacks on opposing counsel,

xx. using uninformative headings (or not using strong headings), and

xxi. failing to show how the cases that you cite support our position.

b. Likes

i. respect for the reader,

ii. realizing that the reader doesn’t have much reason to trust you (yet),

iii. appreciating that you should therefore aim everything you write at earning the reader’s trust and enhancing your credibility,

iv. active voice,

v. conciseness,

vi. vibrant verbs,

vii. strong nouns,

viii. few adjectives and fewer adverbs,

ix. short words,

x. synonyms,

xi. quoting an especially important or helpful authority rather than paraphrasing it,

xii. smooth transitions and strong connections from one paragraph to the next,

xiii. headings (in briefs) that highlight good facts instead of conclusions,

xiv. elegant analogies,

xv. taking the other side’s arguments early-on and head-on (and not in footnotes, for Pete’s sake!),

xvi. citing cases whose holdings supports our position,

xvii. never citing a case just for a good quote,

xviii. starting with a punchy explanation of why our position should prevail,

xix. including (in briefs and memos) a short statement of the case to explain its procedural posture, and

xx. a non-argumentative fact section that – despite its apparent neutrality – leaves the reader with the conviction that our side should win.


You will make mistakes; everybody does. But you should know that honest errors very seldom make a material difference in a case.

​But trying to hide a mistake can turn something minor into something serious. That approach would also increase your stress and hurt your effectiveness. Getting the truth out quickly, on the other hand, usually keeps any problem from becoming intractable; it also enhances your trustworthiness.

Keep me up to date

​Clients want me to stay on top of their cases. I need your help in doing that. If you think a document or issue needs my close attention, note that in a message to me, either in an email or a voicemail, or pay an in-person visit to alert me to the situation.

Trial team practices

​Each trial team that I head will have a weekly call. Because of the call’s importance in advancing the client’s case, all lawyers, paralegals, and principal client representatives must normally participate in it. Notify trial team members in advance by email in the rare instances when you cannot attend a call.

​Before each weekly trial team call, I or another lawyer will circulate a task assignments memo. She or I will also update the memo, renumber it, and send around the new version after the call.

​Err on the side of over-informing trial team members, especially clients, of developments in their cases. Assume, unless they or I say otherwise, that clients should get a copy of everything that comes into or goes out of our offices, including letters, briefs, pleadings, and memos.

You shouldn’t write anything that you wouldn’t want our clients to see.

I will generally forward emails that come to me first to the entire trial team, often without comment. If I think of something that I want a trial team member to do in response, I will put it in an email or ask him or her to see me to discuss the assignment.

​After a deposition or hearing, email to me and the other trial team members, including the client (unless a protective order provides otherwise), the highlights of what happened.

​Notify me as soon as possible if you think you can’t meet a deadline or have a conflicting assignment. I will understand if you alert me in time to make alternative arrangements. I might not if you don’t.

​If you want or expect me to attend of participate in a conference call, meeting, hearing, or other event, send me an Outlook invitation that includes the necessary details. That way, I can put it directly on my Outlook calendar by “accepting” the invitation.

Don’t fight (unless you have to)

​Avoid fights with the other side. That goes double for discovery disputes. They hurt feelings, waste time, and encourage frivolous requests for sanctions.

If a conflict looks likely, let me know as soon as you can. The problem may result from dealing with lawyers who don’t have enough experience or authority to work things out reasonably. My intervention with a more senior lawyer on the other side may resolve the issue.

Keep yourself up to date

​I expect you to keep track of the deadlines in each case we work on together, to familiarize yourself with the terms of all case management and protective orders, and to possess near-encyclopedic knowledge of the applicable rules of civil procedure and of the forum’s local rules. Sometimes people ask me a question that they could have answered themselves if they had consulted one of these basic sources. If I ask you what the applicable rule says about a legal issue that you’ve contacted me about, let’s hope you don’t have to say you don’t know!


​Never treat anyone with disrespect, no matter how disrespectfully he or she has treated you. Pigs like mud fights and especially enjoy getting you dirty too.

Tell the truth

​Having credibility gives you an enormous advantage in all aspects of your job. You have to earn it every day.

Always, always, always tell the truth. Always.

Ask questions

​We work in a profession whose best practitioners excel in coming up with creative solutions to problems. A lot of the process goes on inside our heads. If you want to learn more about the creative aspects of our law practice, ask a senior person to talk through how he or she came up with the great idea that solved a tough issue.

Have fun!

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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.