And now, my notes from trial lawyer Jim Perdue’s talk on “Winning with Stories”, with light editing.

Don’t talk about burden of proof. Speak instead of more likely than not. Many people think you need better proof to take money from a defendant than to put him in jail.

Reasonable conduct does not mean moderate. It means good conduct based on reason.

Will a verdict for my side make the world a better place?

Primacy rule refers not to what you first hear but what you first believe.

Things to do:

Start strong. Let them know where you intend to go and what you expect them to do. Begin with a hook to grab attention.

Set out rules of the road. We cannot have a civilized society without rules. Start with an indisputable scientific principle, one with which any reasonable expert would agree. (“Pitocin is a powerful drug.”). State the rule (“Pitocin should be administered only on a doctor’s order.”) You have to explain the reason for a rule (“Only a medical doctor has the knowledge and experience to prescribe it.”). How did the defendant break the rule (“The nurse administered Pitocin without a doctor’s approval.”)

Simplify facts.

Set the scene.

Tie it all together with a theme.

Complete the circle with the closing.

When you put up text on a screen, you take yourself out of the story. Maybe use images in opening but not text. Therefore you must work the rules of the road into the story you tell. You may say for those of you taking notes, you may want to write this down.

Say that if you follow the rules that our side suggests, the baby is never hurt. But if you follow the other side’s rules, there is a big danger of brain-damaging the baby.


When we’re born, we have a reptilian brain. It helps us to survive. Later we have the brain that lets us move around. Later we get the cognitive brain.

The reptile brain asks can I eat it, or can it eat me? Have to find reptilian truth of your case.

The Culture Code. We have code words for everything. Doctor = hero, hospital = processing plant. Limbic system. Jurors don’t know why they do what they do.

Jury research

Your kind of story-teller.

Good: How it happened.

Better: Why it happened.

Best: How it felt.

How do you start?

Most begin with the protagonist. Risks attribution bias. Jury will go back and second-guess what the protagonist did. You should always talk about the antagonist first.

Example of the John Wayne movie, Big Jake. Saw the bad guys (kidnapping Big Jake’s grandson) first, before you ever see the good guy.

You know you have a good story when you can say to the jury that I don’t have to tell you what happened next. Then you can talk about the protagonist.

Figure out how it looked. But with a view to getting people to know how it felt. Sense of smell has closest link to the subconscious mind.

Don’t be the lawyer-man. Be the human being.

When you get to the critical scene in your case, tell it in the present tense. It involves the jurors. It enables you to do amazing things. It lets you use the concept of psychodrama. You can tell the bad actor not to do the thing she did. Gives jurors the ability to take action.

Character and types

Everything in the courtroom is about character. Defense lawyers try to find out all the bad things about the plaintiff and bring them out. You have to find the good qualities.

Misfortune without fault. Frank Galvin in The Verdict.

The rescuer. People love rescuers. John Wayne didn’t give up.

Get to know your clients. Don’t say she was a good mother. Have her tell the stories that show she was a good mother. Vignettes and anecdotes.

Sacrifices on principle. Find how your protagonist sacrifices.

Dependable. American Film Institute picked Atticus Finch as the greatest movie hero.

Negative qualities of the antagonist.

Selfishness. Joan Crawford.

Greed. Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Betrayal. Corleone.

Hogging credit without doing the work.


Jurors want to know why plaintiff brought the lawsuit. Can’t be just about the money. You have to have an honorable motive.

We don’t want to be here. We want our son back. If we could get specific performance, we would leave now.


Have to have cognitive themes, which hold facts together. Focus groups disclose them. One drink too many. Make it memorable and consistent with concepts of fairness and justice and carries a strong causal connection. Wrong person did the wrong thing at the wrong time.

What you project in court.

Have to project credibility and charisma.

Charisma is very important. Hans the German farmer’s horse.

Watch eye contact. You must connect.

Care for others.

Don’t interrupt. Show genuine interest in others. Offer a glass of water.

Respect for the lesser. Everybody deserves respect. Decent and hard-working people deserve your respect.

Simple, direct, and concise language.

Self-confidence and assurance.




View of the broader scheme of things.

Positive outlook. Always smile.

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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.