One day in 2003, Aaron Barker sat in the office of English Professor Tom Grimes, who leaned back in his chair, scratched the whiskers on his beard, and with a few words, changed the rest of Barker’s life.
“He encouraged me to take myself seriously, and take my education seriously,” Barker says of that conversation.
Like so many college freshman, Mr. Barker enrolled at Texas State unsure of what the future might hold. Up to this point, his academic career had been pretty average: he was smart, but he never pushed himself to succeed academically. After reading Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath in high school, his curiosity for literature came knocking. This curiosity spurred him to write his own short stories and get his Bachelor’s in English with an emphasis in creative writing.
But the upfront conversation he had with Professor Grimes became the pivot point in Mr. Barker’s life. He went from a “knucklehead kid to somebody who really cared about what [he] was doing.”
This clarity, however, didn’t immediately cement a path for his future. As a newly-minted graduate, Barker was still wondering where his passion for literature might fit into the “real world.” By chance, he came across an LSAT prep book and realized that he already possessed the skills necessary for taking the test. He decided he had nothing to lose.
Barker scored well enough on the LSAT to earn a spot in the University of Texas School of Law, a program regularly rated in the top 15 in the nation, according to U.S. News and World. Many of his classmates came from Ivy League schools and spent their holidays in places Mr. Barker could only dream of visiting. He remembers thinking, “These kids from Harvard are going to destroy me!”
However, as the first year wore on, Mr. Barker found that his English background gave him a unique competitive advantage: all of those analytical literature papers taught him the critical problem-solving skills lawyers need to craft arguments and counter-arguments. That same advantage also helped Mr. Barker land a position with the Texas Law Review, the most highly regarded academic journal at UT. As an associate editor, Barker led the review’s web component, which involved contacting law professors from all over the country for their responses to published articles. Barker also won Outstanding Constitutional Law Note of the Year for his poignant paper that analyzed constitutional law and school integration.
Today, Mr. Barker practices corporate and securities law at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, an internationally recognized firm that specializes in technology. Corporate law examines how stakeholders interact with each other, while securities law handles the ownership of stocks and bonds. For Barker, this means working with tech companies and their investors to assist in negotiating high-stakes deals, while also crafting the contractual documents that ensure the agreements don’t end up in lawsuits.
Often, Barker acts as a mentor for tech start-ups, assisting them in navigating the intimidating world of corporate and securities law. “I’m helping these companies grow, acting as their advisor in a very close way,” Barker said.
Without the advice of his mentor, Professor Grimes, Mr. Barker might never have found this level of success. Now, Mr. Barker seeks to pay forward that simple act of kindness by working in local non-profits like the Texas Civil Rights Project, where he’s done various jobs, including reading prisoners’ mail to look for signs of systematic abuse. Mr. Barker also represents numerous charitable organizations on a pro bono basis.
In September, Mr. Barker joined the Liberal Arts Advisory Board at Texas State University, becoming both the newest and youngest member. The board meets twice a year to discuss the current financial status of the college. Board members also share their time and expertise as ambassadors for the College of Liberal Arts and by giving input to those in charge. This new position has Mr. Barker back at Texas State – this time not as a “knucklehead kid,” but as a distinguished graduate and a rising attorney.
When asked for a piece of advice he wishes to pass on to current and prospective English majors, Barker urges them to “Embrace [your] passion. Dive into it headfirst, and allow yourself to be everything that you can.”
By Sammi Yarto, English Minor