Christopher Byrnes| partner

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Christopher Byrnes is an experienced counselor for mission-oriented nonprofit organizations and educational institutions with experience in constitutional and appellate litigation and a passion for religious liberty.  He has helped his high-profile clients navigate a myriad of compliance and governance issues so that they can stay on mission while minimizing risk.

Prior to joining Nelson Madden Black, Mr. Byrnes served as chief legal officer for the nation’s premier public policy research and educational institute, The Heritage Foundation, advising on and overseeing all legal, regulatory, and compliance matters for Heritage and its related organizations, and was the legal advisor and primary staff liaison to Heritage’s Board of Trustees. Previously, Mr. Byrnes served as in-house associate counsel for Strayer University, a major proprietary university headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. Mr. Byrnes also served as a senior attorney-advisor at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where he helped conduct the agency’s high-profile investigations into affirmative action in law schools and the alleged benefits of diversity in elementary and secondary education, among other issues. Mr. Byrnes also served as an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and as an attorney at Defenders of Property Rights, practicing constitutional and appellate litigation with a nonprofit, public interest legal foundation dedicated to protecting the rights of property owners.

Mr. Byrnes graduated cum laude from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as president of the student chapter of the Federalist Society.


  • Georgetown University, B.S.F.S. 1998
  • Georgetown University Law Center, J.D. 2002

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Commonwealth of Virginia (associate status)


Civic Engagement

  • President, Thomas More Society of America (2019-2020)
  • Fellow, The Leonine Forum, Catholic Information Center (2016-2017)
  • Washington, DC Fellow, National Review Institute (2016)
  • Co-Chairman, Younger Members Fellowship, John Carroll Society (2012-2013)
  • President, Young Benefactors of the Smithsonian (2010-2011)


  • English, proficient in Spanish