Brandon (’09) and Shauna (’10) Barnes continue to cement union with Wake Forest Law

Wedding photo of Shauna and Brandon Barnes

Shauna and Brandon Barnes

In October 2009, Brandon Barnes (’09) led Shauna Moser Barnes (’10) on a scavenger hunt around Winston-Salem. The hunt ended at Simply Yummy, a restaurant close to the School of Law, where the two of them used to study for Professor Joel Newman’s tax class. There, Barnes proposed.

“It wasn’t federal tax class that sparked the fire,” Brandon said, although studying together allowed them to get to know each other.

The couple married in Winston-Salem in May 2011, and in slightly less formal terms, they’ve been cementing their union to Wake Forest Law. Both of them are helping to develop internship programs and support the law school through their membership in the Rose Council, formerly the Young Alumni Board.

“In law school you make a connection with people,” Shauna said. “Once you graduate, everyone scatters. To me, it’s important to keep those connections, to celebrate those years.”

Finding their footing

Both Shauna and Brandon were attracted to the School of Law’s small size. For Shauna, the law school’s intimacy was appealing after her undergraduate years at Pennsylvania State University. She is currently general counsel at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. The company proudly sums up its philosophy on its website: “We like to keep it a little kooky and wacky around the Dogfish joint.”

For Brandon, who had graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the scale of the school meant that students had real and meaningful contact with professors. In a short time, he found a tennis opponent in Dean Ann Gibbs’s husband, Tom, and a sense of vocation. He is currently an associate focused on environment and energy issues at McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Washington D.C.

“For me, I was looking for what I was supposed to do with my life,” he said. “Within four weeks at Wake, it clicked for me. I liked discussing law and it’s what I wanted to continue to do.”

Shauna remembers being called on in Professor Timothy Davis’s contracts  class on her first day to explain that perennial law student’s quandary, “the battle of the forms.”

“I just crashed and burned,” she said. “It was terrible.”

She left class and studied until she knew the topic backwards and forwards. When she returned to class, her performance was one of the highlights of her law school career. She also realized she liked contract work, and ended up taking all of Davis’s classes.

Flash forward six years and on her first week at Dogfish Head, one of the brewers told her that the company was fighting with a vendor about the terms of their contract. Shauna looked at the dueling terms and conditions and realized she was looking at the real life version of the battle of the forms.

Love and taxes

The couple knew each other almost a year before they started dating. Brandon was a 3L and had accepted a position with McDermott after interning there his 2L summer. He knew that Shauna was on the list of possible McDermott interns when they both landed in Professor Joel Newman’s class.

He respected Shauna’s intelligence and proposed that they study together. His instincts were right, he said. The grades they received in class were only one point apart, and they began dating only a few months later.

After graduation, Brandon stayed in Winston-Salem and studied for the bar until he started at McDermott in the winter. Shauna followed the same path and joined McDermott’s Antitrust Group a year later.  Dogfish was one of her clients.

Paying it forward

Brandon said that he has been impressed with the School of Law students who have worked in McDermott’s offices.

“I typically find the Wake Forest students are better at their jobs than other students who went to law schools that are allegedly more prestigious,” he said, “not just their work ethic, but their work product.”

He thinks the difference is that Wake Forest is one of the few law schools that requires three semesters of legal writing.

“Legal writing is most of what we do,” he said. “It’s not intuitive.”

He had recently noticed a trend at his firm to narrow in-person recruiting efforts to local schools, like Georgetown and George Washington universities. He was excited about the opportunity to join the Rose Council, and saw it as a way to keep the School of Law’s students in the pipeline to firms in Washington D.C.

“I think part of the alumni’s responsibility is to pay it forward to the students,” he said. “That’s how I got my job. McDermott has partners who went to Wake Forest University and that’s why they were recruiting there.”

For Shauna, getting her start at McDermott was an invaluable first step in helping her get where she is now. Dogfish was one of her clients at McDermott.

“Dogfish is just me,” she said of the company that offers off-centered ales for off-centered people. “There’s so much here that needs to be done.”

Since arriving at Dogfish, she has immersed herself in wrapping her arms around 20 years of company history and operations.  The breadth of her job responsibilities  has led her to hire a School of Law intern last summer of potentially as many as two this summer. Helping a 1L get solid experience on a resume should not only help him or her understand what it takes to be a lawyer, but to better target the type of practice that is right for them.

“I was really fortunate,” she said of her career path. “I want to make sure other students have the same opportunities I did.”