Alum of the Month April '14
Growing up in Chicago and a northern suburb as the seventh of nine children, Francis Barron ('87) learned a great deal from his parents. One lesson Barron thinks was particularly important to his later success was how to be resilient. With all nine children putting themselves through college, one earning a MBA, Francis and another sibling JDs, and a MD to round out the bunch, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Barron left northern Illinois for Colorado, choosing to attend the University of Denver for his undergraduate studies. After spending a year at the London School of Economics, Barron earned a BA in economics and political science. Encountering a sluggish mid 1980s economy, Barron enrolled at Colorado Law for practical reasons. There, he found an academic community filled with intelligent peers who were down to earth, and didn’t engage in the ages old law school backstabbing rituals that were said to occur at other schools. Active in student government, Barron served as class president, and still organizes class reunions.
Sitting in the office of Bearman Talesnick & McNulty, a Denver-based law firm, the summer of 1986 after his second year, Barron summoned the lessons learned from his childhood. Shortly before his arrival in their waiting room the firm had let go of an associate and was in need of a replacement. Having arrived without an appointment, he waited five hours for someone at the firm to speak with him. Someone finally did, and the rest is history. Barron spent his third year clerking for the firm before being hired as an associate upon graduation. Handling primarily corporate and securities matters, it was an important career experience for Barron, and one he was very lucky to get in a bad economy. Eventually being promoted to partner, Barron worked for the then Bearman Talesnick & Clowdus until 1999, when the firm merged with the Denver office of Patton Boggs LLP, a Washington D.C.-based firm.
From 1999-2004, Barron worked as a partner with the Denver office of Patton Boggs. At the beginning of the tech boom, it was, as Barron recalls, an exciting time. In 2004, Barron accepted an offer to join the recently formed Bill Barrett Corporation as general counsel. Formed by the previous management team from Barrett Resources Corporation, the company had been a client of Barron’s for many years and its founder, Bill Barrett, was an innovator in extracting natural gas from tight sand and shale deposits in the western United States. As an executive vice president, senior vice president, and interim CFO, Barron gained crucial experience in the oil and gas business.
In 2013, Barron accepted an opportunity to join the Cimarex Energy as senior vice president and general counsel. Barron, noting that such jobs don’t come around very often, was incredibly excited about the chance to employ the experience he gained at the Bill Barrett Corporation on a larger scale. Using lessons learned at Colorado Law and throughout his career, Barron likes his law department to be a place where people go to hear “yes.” He pushes his legal team to figure out a way to get the company where it needs to go in a legal and ethical manner, and to never be an impediment.
Despite working hard his entire life, Barron has managed to maintain a work-life balance. He is an avid traveler, and says he caught the travel bug while spending a year studying at the London School of Economics. With his wife and two high school aged children, Barron often travels to visit family abroad. Mr. and Mrs. Barron also enjoy skiing and hiking.
My fondest memory was actually how much fun I had doing something as difficult as attending law school. Once I got over the initial anxiety (I won’t say how long that took) and realized that Colorado Law was not the Harvard Law of One L or Paper Chase, I realized how much fun it was to be with a lot of smart people who were funny, enjoyed having a good time, and were appreciative of being at a premier law school that, at the time, had reasonable tuition. We helped each other in study groups and outside of class, were stimulated, and had a good time in Boulder and the mountains.
I wish I knew more about the process than what I learned from One L and Paper Chase. That would have cut down some of the anxiety going in.
Get out there and get involved. It is hard to juggle school and working to pay for school, but it is important to get out and network. Follow up and don’t get discouraged when you are not able to set up a coffee or meeting. It takes time, so start as early as you can. In addition, Colorado Law also has many opportunities for practical experience that were not available when I was there for those of us who did not want to be litigators, like the Entrepreneurial Law Center.
There were many who influenced my career from both the lawyer side and the client side. Alan Talesnick and Bob Bearman ('74) gave me a chance in a tight job market in the late 1980s (it helped that I was persistent and would not leave their reception area until they came out and talked to me). I went from law clerk to associate to partner and they gave me the foundation to move in house. On the client side, I was fortunate to work with great people at great companies. They showed me that you could be ethical and hard working and successful in business. I was fortunate after years as outside counsel to be given a chance as general counsel at Bill Barrett Corporation by Bill Barrett, Frank Keller, Tom Tyree, and others. The opportunity they gave me allowed me to grow on both the legal and business side and to transition to general counsel of Cimarex Energy.
My perseverance, which some may see as stubbornness. I came out of college in the middle of a bad economy in 1984, graduated from law school in a weak economy in 1987 and practiced securities and corporate law when Black Monday occurred in October 1987. There have been a few booms and busts since then, but I was fortunate because I had a job and knew if I worked hard enough I could advance and ended up with a great career. That perseverance also led to my marrying the love of my life, Tamara, and raising two great kids, Caitlin and John. But that is another story…