Craig Byrnes '99: Achieving Access and Fairness for Californians
Craig Byrnes worked as a NASA engineer prior to becoming a lawyer. Though working with the law and the galaxy might seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, they share a common thread: in both positions, Craig brought something that seemed untouchable and infinitely far away into someone else's grasp.
During law school, Craig loved both criminal and constitutional law, but chose to pursue the latter. He founded his solo practice, the Law Office of Craig T. Byrnes, in his hometown of Los Angeles, where he focuses on employment and housing discrimination, as well as access for people with disabilities. All of these areas fall under the purview of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, but Craig draws particular satisfaction from his disability discrimination cases. He explains that, "Once my first son was born, I had to wheel him in a stroller, and that opened my eyes," to the structural barriers that people with disabilities face. His newfound perspective helped him understand the plight of his clients that much better.
Craig understands that his clients "come to me because they're looking to correct a wrong," and he takes great pride in working to make things right. He notes that his work can become quite contentious based on misperceptions by opposing counsel, but he finds that not all defendants want a protracted battle. In fact, many are "looking for a solution, and it's gratifying when we can work together" towards a common end.
Having a solo practice allows Craig the freedom to pick the cases he'd find most rewarding, and have the possibility of making the most impact. Indeed, one of his cases, Thompson v. Impaxx, changed state law. Craig represented a man who began working at a company with no degree and worked his way up to director of operations. Craig says his client put twenty-three years of sweat equity into the company and was forced out when his company was sold to new owners. Craig persevered and ultimately earned a victory for his client, as well as a change in California law that benefits employees.
As a solo practitioner, Craig also sets his own hours, which is "great because I get to be a good dad to my sons, Nathan, 4½, and Aaron, 2." He fully appreciates the balance he's been able to strike between his professional obligations and his family, and is grateful that he's able to pursue his passion of making his part of the universe more accessible to all.
Friends can reach Craig at email@example.com.