Everyone’s origin story for how they came to work in the collections industry is different and some are more serendipitous than others. But Dennis Barton’s origin story might be the most serendipitous of them all. Thankfully, Tim the process server remembered Dennis saying he wanted to get into consumer collections and the rest is history. Read on to learn more about Dennis and how no day is complete unless it includes vanilla ice cream.
Name: Dennis J. Barton
Company: The Barton Law Group, LLC
Length of time at current company: Nine years
Length of time in industry: Nine years
How did you get your start in the industry?
In 2009, I decided to go out on my own and open a general practice law firm. For those who don’t know, a “general practice law firm” means you take whatever case you can to keep the lights on until you become successful enough to stopp doing family law and DWI defense. About half of my work was commercial collections for a handful of strip mall owners. In October 2011, I googled to find a process server to serve a complaint in Chicago. The first one I called (Tim) said he could get it done. Turns out his office was in St. Louis close to my firm. At some point I learned he did work for collection firms, and I told him I wanted to get into consumer collections. I don’t know why I said that. I wasn’t even sure what “consumer collections” entailed. I was just making conversation.
Six months later, Tim (the process server I used one time) came to my office saying that he remembered I wanted to get in to consumer collections. He said a solo attorney died in a car accident, and there was no one to take over his collection firm. He asked if I would take it over. He said,” the whole thing runs itself.” He explained that people in the office file the same thing over and over, garnish, and everybody makes money without a lot of effort. How could I say no to that?
After negotiating with the family and signing up all of the clients, overnight The Barton Law Group stopped being a general practice firm and started being a collection and consumer law defense firm. The biggest collection client, Specified Credit Association, was very supportive. Without Mike Varady’s help, I would not have been able to move into collections at all. At that time, I had heard of the FDCPA being a statute prohibiting calls to people in the middle of the night. That was pretty much all I knew about the FDCPA. Turns out, I needed to know a little more than that.
What is your career highlight so far?
Winning my first consumer law jury trial defending a Missouri collector.
When or how are you most productive?
I’m most productive at the office before 1AM. After that, my productive drops. My rate doesn’t, but my output does.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
It’s a tie between Mike Varady and John Bedard. Both of them have been incredibly supportive of me starting and growing my collections firm.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
I excel at using my professional resources. I not only cultivate a broad and knowledgeable professional network, but I’m willing to reach out to friends and colleagues like Mike, Roger Weiss, John, Beth Conklin, Harry Strausser, David Kaminski, and the many others. It’s that second step that many people don’t take not wanting to interrupt the other person, but find people in our industry eager to help those in need.
What do you like most about this industry?
Nicely tying to the previous answer, the generosity of people. Some many collegues are open about their thoughts on just about anything, especially when you make yourself an available resource to them.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
We need to coordinate with other industries that share the same goals even if they don’t realize it, which includes most, if not all, types of business groups, sectors, etc.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I want to say touring as a guitarist in the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, but I would more likely be an employment lawyer.
Describe a typical work day.
Wake up, read/respond to email, leave for court and make phone calls on the way, appear in state court for collection cases and obtain judgments for collection clients, drive back to the office making calls on the road, get to the office and read/respond to email, research and write federal court briefs for defense clients, sign and/or modify collection letters and pleadings, go to the gym, see family, put girls to bed, read/respond to emails, file a pleading or brief in time to beat the federal court midnight deadline, and go to sleep. Most days feel like the show LA Law, Suits, or Ally McBeal, but some days feel more like SVU: Special Victims Unit.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Every night I eat a bowl of Breyer’s Natural Vanilla ice cream.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Never let yourself be bullied. My dad told me that in grade school, and it is the same thing I preach to my clients who get sued by bulk-filing plaintiff’s attorneys. Fight back, or you’ll keep getting hit.
What are you currently reading?
My leisure reading comes in the form of bedtime reading to my daughters (ages 3 and 6). Those literary classics include “The Gruffalo” and “Pippa the Pumpkin Fairy.”
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
I wrote and recorded a CD in 1998 that went platinum (that’s selling over 300 CDs, right?)
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Kevin Baich and Jim Peacock.