David Barton admits to occasionally introducing himself in social situations as a geologist first before sharing that he’s also an attorney.
“I get this look [of disapproval] when I say I’m a lawyer . . . but when I’m a geologist, people like me,” the 41-year-old Huntington native jokes.
Looking back at his career, Barton, right, says, “My track was really bizarre.”
He began at SUNY Oneonta as an engineering major. But when by chance he took a class in hydrogeology -- the study of groundwater flow through rocks and soil -- the plan changed.
He went on for a master’s at Wright State in Dayton, Ohio, doing his thesis work on the Island of Andros in the Bahamas. That thesis, which involved studying the possible contamination of the freshwater supply by nearby saltwater, broke new ground and paved the way for studies by future students. He went on to work in the environmental industry in both Tennessee and Virginia.
“I was really lucky to have worked on some really exciting projects,” he said. “There are papers that I wrote back then still on the Internet today.”
However, as much as he loved the research and problem solving, he began to rethink the career. A self-described “people person,” Barton yearned for a position where he could work one-on-one with clients and help them directly.
Having a fascination with the law dating back to a childhood filled with stories from his grandfather, a chemical engineer who became an attorney with the U.S. Patent Office, Barton made a radical choice.
“I had this great job. . . a nice house with a low mortgage. . . not to mention a wife, two young kids and two dogs,” he laughed. But they gave it up and moved back to Barton’s hometown of Huntington, and he enrolled at Touro Law School.
While at school he landed a job in the office of a trust and estates attorney. He recounts a hospital visit with a client who wanted to be sure things went smoothly for her daughter when the time came to deal with her estate.
“When we were done,” Barton recalls, “she looked at me and said, ‘Now I can sleep at night.’ ” He knew he had found his calling.
After graduating from Touro in 2006 and passing the bar, he decided to take on a partner. When he asked himself who he would trust, law school friend Matthew Klieger immediately came to mind.
The firm, Barton & Klieger, P.C., has steadily built its clientele and reputation, and in late 2010 acquired the practice of Nancy Munson, a longtime Huntington attorney who had died a year earlier.
As for Barton’s former career, it’s never too far away.
“I keep a few rock samples in the office,” says a grinning Barton. “They’re a good conversation piece . . . and I love talking about geology.”
In photograph: David Barton, right, and law partner Matthew Klieger.