July 26, 2017 - Ned Barnett has been serving people in the Houston area for 23 years at his firm, The Law Offices of Ned Barnett. The 1987 University of Houston Law Center alumnus recently shared some of his experiences and what led him to establishing his own firm.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in law?
A: My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were lawyers. I always wanted to be a lawyer. My great-grandfather was the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Texas and was a judge. My grandfather did some criminal defense, and my father did a light amount of criminal defense early in his career.
Q: After attending the University of Texas for your undergraduate education, how did you come to select the University of Houston Law Center for your legal education?
A: Besides it being a great law school, it was in my hometown and I wanted to work and come back to Houston. It was just a great fit to have a school of its caliber in the location where I wanted to be.
Q: What are some of the lessons from law school that you still carry with you in your practice today?
A: The main thing is details and to treat everything very seriously. To me details and preparation are the most important parts of being a good lawyer.
Q: After graduating from the University of Houston Law Center in 1987, you began working as an assistant district attorney in the Galveston Criminal District Attorney's Office. What was that experience like?
A: It was a really good job. I was able to try a lot of cases throughout a three-year commitment. When you're 26 years old, about the only place you're going to be able to get jury trials is in the district attorney's office. That's what I wanted to do. I learned how to prepare and how to talk to juries.
Q: You moved onto the United States Attorney's Office, working as an assistant U.S. attorney. How would you describe your tenure there?
A: There were fewer cases, but you had to perform at a high label. I had to really focus on the details and learn to present a good case.
Q: What led to you starting your own practice, The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, in 1994?
A: I knew I always wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer from the time I was a kid. But I needed the right background. I don't think you can step out of law school and go represent citizens accused of crimes. You're not prepared to and you don't have any experience. I wanted to go get a bunch of jury trials at the Galveston district attorney's office and learn to be a good trial lawyer. Then I fine-tuned my skills working on bigger cases at the U.S. Attorney's Office. I was an assistant U.S. attorney for three years. After doing both of those, I was finally ready to go defend people accused of crimes.
Q: Does the perspective you received as a former prosecutor help you now as a defense attorney?
A: It really helps. I think I know what most prosecutors think like -- what they're going after and what they want when you're trying to negotiate a plea.
Q: What kind of cases do you work on the most?
A: I've always handled a lot of driving while intoxicated cases. Over the last 10 years, I have focused very hard on sexual assaults. Those are two areas I focus on a lot, but I handle all kind of criminal cases.
Q: How important that all citizens have the opportunity to have legal representation when accused of a crime?
A: It is a right guaranteed in our Constitution. It's very important that everyone have the best lawyer they can get. There is almost no end to what a good lawyer can do. Having a bad lawyer can be devastating.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about being a criminal defense attorney?
A: I just like helping people. I really enjoy helping the little guy, standing in front of the big government. When someone is accused of a crime, they feel like the world is against them. I really enjoy stepping in front of the government and defending them when it just seems hopeless.