With nearly forty-five years of experience, William T. Barker is a nationally renowned attorney and author. Mr. Barker serves as Senior Counsel at Dentons’ Chicago office, where he is sought after for his expertise in complex commercial insurance litigation, individual client insurance issues, and matters of lawyers’ professional responsibility. Perhaps best-known for his work on the In re Katrina Canal Breaches and the Chauvin v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. cases, which established insurers’ responsibilities after Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Barker has been selected to the Illinois Super Lawyers® list, among other prestigious awards and honors.
As he tells it, Mr. Barker has had a lifelong interest in the law, though his path to becoming a lawyer was anything but a straight shot:
I’ve been interested in the law since the fifth grade, when I read a book called "Your Rugged Constitution." But I was also a child of the Sputnik era, and I was interested in math and science. I ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in math. In the end, I concluded that I didn't quite have the intuition and talent to be the kind of mathematician I wanted, so I came back to my interest in the law. It took me a long time to save up for school—the Vietnam War was going on, and I had to work for a while programming computers to avoid the draft—but, eventually, I went to law school at Berkeley.
Mr. Barker graduated from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1974 and fell immediately into the ever-evolving field of insurance law, discovering he had a unique aptitude for it. Almost immediately, he joined Dentons, which was then called Sonneschein Levinson Nath & Rosenthal. Over the last several decades, Mr. Barker has been instrumental in the firm's growth from a major player in the Chicago area to a firm with an international presence and reputation.
Today, Mr. Barker applies his decades of experience as Senior Counsel at Bentons, where his practice encompasses insurance coverage, claim practices, sales practices, risk classification, and regulatory matters. He also consults on ethics compliance, ensuring that lawyers are well-informed on their professional responsibilities so they can act ethically and in their clients’ best interests.
Additionally, Mr. Barker is a respected author and speaker who has written two books, New Appleman Insurance Bad Faith Litigation and The Professional Responsibilities of Insurance Defense Counsel. He has taken on pivotal leadership roles in legal associations, including serving as an advisor to the American Law Institute Project on the Principles of the Law of Liability Insurance, as a co-chair of the Subcommittee on Bad Faith of the ABA Litigation Section Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, and as an active member in various sections of the ABA Tort, Trial, and Insurance Practice Section. Mr. Barker has also written more than 100 articles, speaks and lectures frequently around the country, and has served as an expert witness in bad faith and legal malpractice cases.
After such wide-ranging and extensive professional experience, Mr. Barker has developed a unique position of prominence from which he can comment on his areas of specialty. Over the past four decades, he has seen significant changes in his area of law. He notes:
Bad faith insurance law is constantly evolving. And in this field, when a statute changes, it causes the law to develop fairly quickly. Currently, I am an advisor to a project that is re-stating the law of liability insurance by the American Law Institute. It will be finalized this coming May, and it will really impact the law going forward.
After an illustrious four-and-a-half-decades of legal practice, Mr. Barker intends to continue providing the essential legal guidance for which he has become known. He looks forward to being a writer, speaker, and attorney for many years to come, not only applying the law but also shaping it.
Received a special award from the International Association of Defense Counsel for his role in the debates on that the professional responsibilities of insurance defense counsel that were part of the preparation of the Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers • Yancey Memorial Award from International Association of Defense Counsel for best article published in the Defense Counsel Journal in 1994 • Illinois Super Lawyers® 2017
Advisor to the American Law Institute Project on Principles of the Law of Liability Insurance • Co-chair of the Subcommittee on Bad Faith of the ABA Litigation Section Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee, and past chair of that committee’s Subcommittee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility • Active in the ABA Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section, where he is a member of the Insurance Coverage Litigation Committee (past vice chair) and Standing Committee on Long Range Planning, among other committees • Chair of the ABA Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section Standing Committee on the Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award • Active on the Defense Research Institute Insurance Law Committee. • Member of Dentons' Ethics Committee, and active in bar work relating to lawyers’ professional responsibility • Member of the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) and chair of APRL’s Public Statements Committee • Member of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility Policy Implementation Committee • Past member of the editorial advisory board of the ABA/BNA Lawyers' Manual on Professional Conduct • Current or former member of the ethics committees of the Chicago Bar Association, the Chicago Council of Lawyers (past chair), the ABA Sections of Trial Tort and Insurance Practice and Litigation and the International Association of Defense Counsel
California • Illinois • US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit • US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit • US District Court for the Central District of California • US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois • US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin • US Supreme Court