In law school, she was an active leader in the National Black Law Students Association, serving as her chapter’s Community Service Director, then as Regional Treasurer, and Regional Corporate Relations Director. She also became involved in the Dallas Bar Association while still a student and has maintained that involvement.
It was also in law school that she first became invested in pro bono work. Writing a research paper regarding mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws “opened [her] eyes to people serving life without parole for nonviolent drug offenses.” Since then, she has taken on numerous pro bono clients who have either been sentenced to life without parole or decades in prison as first-time nonviolent drug offenders. Outside of the community, this work also has received praise from the American Civil Liberties Union.
Aside from her pro bono and bar association work, Byrd is also the Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors for Girls Embracing Mothers (GEM). GEM was founded with the aim of “empower[ing] young girls ages 7 through 17 whose mothers are currently incarcerated by providing a support system in a caring, inclusive, and learning environment.” At 22, Byrd’s own mother was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. This experience would bring Byrd to dedicate her time and energy to helping young girls connect with their mothers and break the generational cycle that often comes with incarceration.
GEM focuses its work on three main programs: the Sapphire Program, which focuses on character and leadership development; the Diamond Program, which is a mentoring initiative that operates in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi; and the Pearl Program, which concentrates on reinforcing and building the mother-daughter relationship during and after incarceration.
When asked how she finds time for her work with GEM and pro bono clients on top of her demanding practice, Byrd said that “if it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll find the time for it.” She admits that at times it can be difficult to balance it all, but she is thankful for her firm and how supportive they have been of her outside endeavors.
Byrd is no stranger to recognition for her amazing accomplishments as a young lawyer. Before being a finalist for the National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, Brittany was named the 2013 Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas and 2013 Outstanding Young Lawyer of Dallas. She has found being named a finalist for the National Outstanding Young Lawyers Award to be a “very humbling experience.”
As Travis Patterson, District Representative to ABA YLD for District 26 points out, “Dallas and Texas are lucky to have a lot of young attorneys who are involved in their communities and legal practices—but Brittany definitely stands out.”
“Recognition now is going to help me become a better person and grow more. It has already helped to raise awareness for issues I care deeply about and given me the privilege to meet really great people with years of experience in the practice,” said Byrd. She has been consistently grateful for the mentors that she’s had in her life—some of whom she met through her early participation with the Dallas Bar—and has now found herself with her own mentees.
“Being recognized so early on speaks to how great a job she’s doing. You see all of her programs, GEM, and pro bono work for incarcerated inmates, and it’s incredible,” said Patterson.
Patterson added that “it’s not just the fact that she’s a great attorney, not just that she’s doing great things in the community. It’s that she’s doing it all while dealing with adversity and a lot of us would have found that hard to overcome. But Brittany saw that as an opportunity to help people and make the world a better place which is really admirable.”
“My motto is give back—I think we’re all blessed to be blessings to others,” said Byrd.
Congratulations to Brittany Byrd on her amazing accomplishments and for being named a National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award Finalist!
Nominations for the 2014 ABA YLD National Outstanding Lawyer Award are due August 31, 2014.