Small Law Lifestyle: Barry Brooks

August 10, 2011

Running a successful law practice is tough enough. Doing it while you’re a world-class triathlete who competes in Ironman races seems nearly impossible. Yet, Barry Brooks is an example that it can be done. I recently spoke with Barry about his practice, racing, and WestlawNext.

WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE?

I have a civil engineering degree and I practiced as an engineer prior to law school, so I concentrate mostly on construction law.  I worked at a big firm originally, but I left for a smaller firm to focus on construction law. At the time, I was commuting an hour each way to work, so I finally decided to open my own place out here in Rockwall, Texas. I adjusted my career to make time for my lifestyle and it has worked out well.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO TRIATHLONS?

I grew up running.  But after I graduated, got married, and started working, I started gaining weight. I got up to 220 pounds.  I would get up every morning and complain about how I felt and looked.  My wife finally got fed up with my whining and told me, “Stop complaining, and do something about it!”  So I did.

First, I started running again, but that was not much fun considering how out of shape as I was. I was living in Colorado at the time and everyone was cycling, so I gave that a try.  I started riding and getting back in shape. One day I was going to go out for a ride, but I didn’t have much time, so I thought I would just go for a run. Since I was getting back into shape, the run was easier, and I realized how much I missed running.  I started running more and more along with the cycling, so I thought I might as well start swimming and do this triathlon thing.  That was eight years and about 50 pounds ago.

I think a lot of attorneys, especially litigators, kind of have a type A, aggressive personality, and once we get into something then we really get into it. Once I got into triathlons, I set my goals on competing in Ironman races, and I’ve never looked back.

HOW ELSE DOES COMPETING IN TRIATHLONS IMPACT YOUR PRACTICE?

Another reason we started my current firm was to try to get more involved in cycling advocacy and awareness in Texas.  My partner is also an avid cyclist and triathlete, so we have started doing personal injury work for cyclists and other athletes that are injured by motorists. It has been really interesting because the biggest struggle is getting the insurance companies to understand that these are not typical car accident cases, and there are some unique damages that occur to an athlete when they get an injury. It would really mess my world up if I had to stop training and racing for 6 months or longer because I got hurt by someone’s negligence. The adjusters you have to work with do not typically deal with these issues, so we have to educate them on these unique damages. All of our cycling clients so far have been pretty high level athletes that are actually having their training and race results diminished.  It takes a certain amount of time to get back to where you were before the accident.  Fortunately, we have been pretty successful at getting insurance companies and opposing counsel to understand and compensate for these unique issues.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WESTLAW NEXT?

I always preferred Westlaw for legal research when I didn’t have to pay for it personally!  But when I started my own firm I didn’t know what I was going to do for online legal research. But then I got a mailer about the WestlawNext iPad app, and I thought if it was something that was iPad friendly, it could really help my practice and especially my time management.  I use the iPad a lot in my practice because it really helps me stay connected with the office when I’m away and is a great time management tool.  I did a free trial for WestlawNext, and I really liked it. The searching is much easier than anything I’ve used before.  It’s hard to describe how much better it is than the old Westlaw, and I really liked the old Westlaw.  It’s just easy.  I go to one place and type in what I want and it shows me lots of relevant cases with just one search. I’m finding cases that I know would have taken me a lot longer to find if I wasn’t using WestlawNext. The other thing I like is the way I can organize my research and save it all under a case folder. That’s extremely helpful because I do not have to keep research lists anymore. Instead I just set up different folders in WestlawNext for different matters and issues.  It saves me time because those folders are available to me anywhere—even on my iPad.

You can follow Barry Brooks on Twitter @ironmanatlaw. Also, be sure to check out his firm’s website.

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