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VADA Member Spotlight

Sean Byrne
Byrne Canaan Law

This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Sean Byrne of Byrne Canaan Law in Richmond.  Sean is a graduate of the University of Richmond and the University of Richmond School of Law.  He is a member of VADA’s Medical Malpractice Section.

1.         Where were you born?

Syracuse, New York.  (Go Orange!)

2.         Tell us about your spouse. Children? Pets?

My significant other is Marissa Watts, an in-house attorney with Progressive Insurance.  Our blended family is full of kids and pets, included Maggie (20), Anna (17), and Patrick Byrne (15), along with Morgan (11) and AJ Watts (9).  Our pets are Luna (cockapoo), Tom Brady (golden doodle), and Boomer (turtle)!

3.         What type of law do you practice?

Health care law and litigation, with focus on medical malpractice defense.

4.         How long have you been a member of VADA?

More than 20 years.

5.         What do you like most about practicing law?

I particularly enjoy being a practical problem solver for clients.  With health care professionals facing litigation, that means helping them through what is often the most challenging and distressing event in their career.  After 17 years with another firm, I launched my own firm in 2019. Building a successful business with an awesome group of dedicated colleagues and friends has been the career highlight.

6.         What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?

Great friendships and collaboration with my peers and friendly competitors at other defense firms. The VADA Medical Malpractice Section in particular puts together great content at the regular meetings and provides a terrific framework for networking.

7.         If you were in my office, one of the first things you would notice would be …

My team recently moved into a new office in Scott’s Addition. We focused on building a flexible and collaborative space to fit our culture. You’d find Taco Tuesdays, visiting dogs most Fridays, collaborative work tables and couches, and likely a colleague or two on their laptop on the outdoor patio if the sun is shining.  In my personal office you’ll find a slew of Boston sports collectables, an Abraham Lincoln statue, and pics of the kids and the ocean.

8.         What is the last movie or TV show you binge watched?

Ted Lasso (like everybody?).  I love competition and sports as a metaphor for life.  An upbeat comedy about an optimistic coach is a great break from this COVID-era stress these days.

9.         What was your undergraduate major?

Psychology and business at the University of Richmond.

10.       What movie line do you find yourself quoting most often?

From A Few Good Men: “Q: You want Answers? A: I want the truth! A: You can’t handle the truth!”

11.       What is at the top of your bucket list?

I prefer the idea of a reverse bucket list – mindful gratitude for the gift of each present moment, and true appreciation for all the experiences of my past.

12.       What was your first job?

I spent my college summers as a landscaper on Nantucket Island and my “gap year” before law school as a skier and waiter in Crested Butte, Colorado. 

13.       When I am not at the office, I like to …

Sporting events and concerts with family and friends, travel, reading, boating, and lots of fishing (more fishing than catching). 

14.       What would your courtroom walk-up music be?

Lose Yourself, Eminem?  Hard to think of a better pump-up fight song.

15.       What is the most memorable live concert you ever attended?

Rolling Stones at Wembley, Grateful Dead in Buffalo, James Taylor and Jackson Browne at Fenway, Taylor Swift in Charlottesville (The Red Tour – obviously), and Bruce Springsteen on The Rising Tour in Richmond would all have to be among the top.

16.       If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …

Teaching.  I have enjoyed serving as an adjunct at the University of Richmond in the law and undergraduate schools since 1999.  Teaching feels like a great act of optimism and I really value the interaction with the next generation of Spider lawyers.

17.       What is your favorite travel spot?

My happy place is a small family cottage on the western tip of Nantucket Island.  It’s been my familiar escape for 50 years, with four generations of our family.  The sights and sounds of the ocean are the best cure for litigation stress.

18.       What talent do you wish you had?


19.       What quality do you admire most in other attorneys?

Smart people who do the work at a high level, attend to the details, put their clients first, and treat their opponents with fairness and candor.

20.       What advice would you give to someone who just passed the bar?

Be confident – but not cocky.  You have invested in yourself, learned to think and analyze the law, and now have an amazing opportunity to have a fulfilling career where you make a big positive difference in the lives of others.  Make it count.

Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys

11533 Busy Street, #327

N. Chesterfield, VA 23236


Executive Director: Sherma Mather

Director of Meetings: Amy Gilbody

Journal of Civil Litigation Managing Editor: Molly Terry

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