By DIANA SMITH, Staff Writer
A Campbell Law School graduate, Barefoot is managing editor for the second edition of the North Carolina Family Claims book. He also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Lacy Foundation, a charitable group that has raised $100,000 each year to fund additional teaching positions at Lacy Elementary School in Raleigh.
NCLW: If you weren’t practicing law, what else would you want to do?
Barefoot: Teach high school history during the day and do stand-up comedy at night.
NCLW: How has being an attorney affected your view of the world?
Barefoot: We are very fortunate as attorneys to be able to take satisfaction in our work by helping people at difficult times in their lives. We have the opportunity to make a good living and to be in a position to give back to our community.
Seeing some of the things that I see as a family law attorney certainly makes me appreciate my family more. Some nights I go home and hug my children a little longer than usual after hearing a particularly awful story about a parent who has not made their children a priority.
NCLW: What is the most memorable case or client you have dealt with?
Barefoot: I tell folks that family law is always interesting. Most of my memorable cases involve stories that are probably not fit for print in a family publication like this. The clients I remember most are the ones who manage to keep a positive outlook in the face of the adversity that comes with the dissolution of any marriage.
NCLW: Who was your mentor and what important lessons did they teach you?
Barefoot: I clerked for former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell right when I got out of law school and asked him during work one day whether I could run an errand to the post office. He looked at me and told me that I did not need to ask permission. He explained that as lawyers, we are professionals and we have the flexibility to do what we need to do as long as we take seriously our responsibility to get the job done and to do it to the best of our ability.
From Robert Ponton, I learned preparation, preparation, preparation – and that no matter how bad the situation seems, you keep plugging along to try to get the best outcome you can for your client.
NCLW: How do clients find you?
Barefoot: Almost exclusively through referrals from friends, former clients or other attorneys.
NCLW: If you took the bar exam today, would you pass?
Barefoot: I expect I would get the family law questions right. I studied for two months for the bar exam immediately after finishing three years of a great education at Campbell Law School. Given that my practice is limited to family law and has been for 15 years, I expect I would know where to find the answers for things like criminal law, constitutional law and torts, but I don’t remember it being an open-book exam.
NCLW: How effective have social media been for your practice?
Barefoot: I have not tweeted, posted or linked. I think the world is probably a better, safer place because of it.
NCLW: What is the most unusual thing on your desk or in your office?
Barefoot: I have a jar of “Ass Kickin’ Salsa” that a client gave me at the conclusion of the first case I tried entirely by myself. One of the attorneys in my office shortly thereafter gave me a bottle of “Dumb Ass Hot Sauce” with a buck-toothed donkey on it.
Humility is a good thing and I count on friends to keep me humble. They rarely let me down.
NCLW: How has the economy affected your practice?
Barefoot: During my initial consultation, I always explain the costs involved. For the first year or so of the downturn, after hearing about the costs, I would occasionally have a client decide that he or she was maybe not as upset with their spouse as they thought they were. The passage of time has generally persuaded those folks that they were right about their spouse when they first came to see me.
In all seriousness, one of the biggest problems is that the marital home has typically been the greatest asset and the equity was available to facilitate a resolution of cases. A number of clients, even those who make a significant income, now are in situations with little equity or negative equity in their homes, and this has made us be much more creative in finding solutions for the financial aspects of a case because of a problem that basically did not exist a few years ago.
NCLW: How do you manage to take time off during the holidays/vacation?
Barefoot: You have to take time for your family, your friends and for yourself. I always have found a way to do it. That means that I work harder than normal in the weeks leading up to the time away and I work harder than normal upon my return to make sure that all of my clients are receiving the proper attention that they deserve.
Editor’s note: If you would like to participate in a Q&A interview, contact Diana Smith at email@example.com.