Attorney: Kensley Barrett
Firm: The Law Offices of Kensley R. Barrett, ESQ.
Location: Providence, RI
Practice Areas: DUI, Criminal Defense, Expungement
Barrett says that working in the Public Defenders Office also taught him the importance of “being understanding of where your clients are coming from, having empathy and sympathy, and being able to relate to them and understand their problems.”
Attorney Kensley Barrett in the Spotlight…
Even when he was a child, Rhode Island criminal defense attorney Kensley Barrett knew he wanted to give back to his community. But criminal defense law wasn’t his first step in that direction. Barrett served his country in the U.S. Coast Guard for eleven years before going to law school.
Serving in the Coast Guard sparked his interest in law, Barrett says. Legal issues are complicated for most people, but he says they were particularly challenging for his fellow service members because they didn’t always have access to the same information and resources as civilians. He says:
“I saw my colleagues who found themselves on the wrong side of the law or needed access to legal information or legal advice, and they had nowhere to turn. Or they didn’t want to go to their commander and ask for legal help, so they’d try to do things on their own. And that just made things worse.”
Barrett eventually decided to leave the Coast Guard to attend law school at the University of Connecticut.
Dedication to public service
In law school, Barrett initially focused on insurance law. After a semester, he realized he was much more interested in public service than in corporate law.
Since then, Barrett says that the majority of his law career has involved helping individuals who are “facing government entities, whether it’s the police, or an educational body, or a housing authority, or a landlord situation.” Barrett worked as a civil rights investigator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and as an Assistant Public Defender in Rhode Island.
As a Public Defender, Barrett says he defended hundreds of clients charged with a wide variety of crimes, all in a challenging environment:
“Oftentimes, the clients aren’t exactly happy with you and neither are their loved ones. You have the prosecutors that you’re battling and the judges aren’t always sympathetic.”
He says that experience taught him that you have to be prepared, and you have to fight hard for your clients, even when it seems like “you have everyone against you and one obstacle after another gets put in front of you.”
He says that working in the public Public Defenders Office also taught him the importance of “being understanding of where your clients are coming from, having empathy and sympathy, and being able to relate to them and understand their problems.”
Everyone deserves competent counsel
Barrett’s practice includes defending people accused of hot-button issues, such as domestic violence or hate crimes. Barrett firmly believes that everyone should have “the same procedural safeguards, and the same protections, and the same ability to have competent counsel,” regardless of what crimes they are accused of committing.
Barrett says a former colleague at the Public Defenders Office once described criminal defense in a way that still resonates for him today:
“If it wasn’t for individuals representing those charged with crimes, essentially we’d be living in a police state where all it takes is for an arrest to occur and that’s it. There’s no legal system, there’s no representation for individuals that are charged.”
He says he has always had a “soft spot” for people who find themselves on “the wrong side of the law,” all the way back to watching his friends and colleagues struggle with legal issues when he served in the Coast Guard.
Barrett says he even found himself sympathizing with people who were accused of crimes when he interned with the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office during law school. Even though he was helping to prosecute them at the time, he realized that “not everyone is born into a good family or has access to good life advice or to make good decisions. But that shouldn’t mean you don’t get access to adequate representation.”
A mistake should not define you
Barrett says that “some people make mistakes, but that should not define you.” As a criminal defense attorney, he has the opportunity to help ensure that an “arrest is not the defining moment in your life that you don’t really recover from.”
Barrett says he is happy that changes in Rhode Island law have made it easier for people to have misdemeanor convictions expunged from their record. As he says, “Once you have that blemish on your record, it makes it that much more difficult to obtain jobs or housing. Luckily, the state is moving in a progressive manner, to help individuals have the ability to move forward with their lives.”
Educating clients about their rights
Barrett believes that part of his job as an attorney is to help his clients and potential clients make informed decisions about their cases and representation. Barrett says his website plays a major role in informing and educating them about their rights. He describes his law firm website as a “living, breathing thing” that he tries to fill with “good content.”
As if practicing law wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Barrett is also pursuing an MBA at Boston University. He laughingly says, “My wife thinks I’m crazy and most of my friends think I’m crazy as well. I’m 40 and I’m back in business school. I think I had a midlife crisis when I turned 38, like ‘I need to do more!’ ”
Between serving his clients and going to business school, Barrett says he needs to be “all about efficiency” in managing and marketing his practice. He says using the LawLytics system makes marketing and advertising his firm “much easier.” He also appreciates that he has access to informative reports that tell him how his website is performing and what his potential clients are reading on the site.
Barrett says that it would be nice if he could just come to work and help his clients, but he has to remember that “if you don’t do the right marketing or advertising, you might not have any clients!”