Sticks, Kicks and Suits

Whether he's sparring in the dojo or the courtroom, Craig Andrews plays to win        

Published in 2008 San Diego Super Lawyers magazine

By Erin Gulden on May 18, 2008


It was hard to ignore Craig Andrews’ Red Badge of Courage. His left hand was swelled to twice the size of his right—the casualty of a weekend stick-fighting exercise gone awry. “It’s a good conversation piece,” the Heller Ehrman attorney says with a chuckle. “My wife and family think I’m nuts, but I think the clients find it funny and interesting.”

Andrews is in the midst of mastering Arnis-Kali, the Filipino art of stick fighting. He already has a black belt in traditional Japanese karate, and has practiced Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, among other martial arts. It has been a constant learning process since he first studied Eastern culture in college.

“It is essentially a lifelong hobby,” Andrews says, pointing out that martial arts teaches—among other things—flexibility, focus and the ability to think quickly. “I get to meet different people, and I’m learning something new all the time.”

After the Los Angeles native moved to San Diego in 1977, he became one of the first generation of tech lawyers involved in the city’s growing tech industry. Since then, he has been part of thousands of transactions, helping emerging companies get their start, including industry giants such as Dura Pharmaceuticals (sold to Elan) and BioSym Technologies (sold to Corning).

Andrew’s reasons for embarking on a 30-year career in corporate law, venture capital and mergers and acquisitions, are not so different from his reasons for studying martial arts. Working with emerging companies allows him to meet “interesting, entrepreneurial people” of all backgrounds. He must be flexible, representing companies that sell everything from networking equipment to diagnostic tools for autoimmune diseases, which means he is always learning, becoming familiar with the new technologies on “at least a college level.”

During the course of helping found 200 emerging companies, Andrews says he has come to realize that the process is a lot like launching a rocket ship. “If you are off a couple of degrees at launch, you will miss your target by miles,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how great the product or company is. There is little room for error.” Slight misjudgments in an Arnis lesson might lead to swollen hands, but misjudgment in the boardroom could lead to a company getting sold, getting acquired or failing altogether.

Andrews imagines that once he masters Arnis he may move on to another martial art, but plans to be in his practice for the long run. “I don’t know what other kinds of law would be more interesting,” Andrews says. “I was able to grow with the city, and I would like to continue.”

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