VOL. 128 | NO. 130 | Thursday, July 4, 2013
Memphis Law Talk
Clients, Service Take Precedence at Harris Law Firm
By RICHARD J. ALLEY
Michael Harris of The Harris Law Firm PLLC has high praise for the Drake University Law School, where he earned his juris doctorate.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Harris said.
The 31-year-old Memphis native and Southside High School graduate attended Fisk University in Nashville to study biology, a major that lasted mere weeks, before switching over to political science.
The idea to enter law school, he said, “came so natural for me.”
In college he ran track and cross country, played saxophone in a jazz ensemble, participated in mock trial and had the good fortune to meet influential lawyers such as Richard Dickens, then-general counsel for Fisk and currently a sitting judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
“He was such a mellow, kind, gentle spirit,” Harris said. “You had no idea that he was this powerhouse lawyer.”
Harris graduated from Drake in 2008 with his law degree and an MBA, and returned to Memphis where he worked for Memphis City Schools as labor relations administrator, managing contracts with labor unions, handling layoffs and employee discipline.
A year later he became a victim of the very system he was managing when he was laid off.
“After that, I had the opportunity to work at the law offices of Darrell O’Neal and there is no substitution that would be proper for apprenticeship than his law office,” Harris said. “He really gave me an opportunity to develop my skills at a high level. Darrell threw me into the fire and it was a great experience. He pushed me harder than I’ve ever been pushed before. I give him a lot of credit for helping shape me through my matriculation as an attorney.”
Slightly more than two years later, Harris went to work as of counsel for the Hewlett Law Firm PLLC before stepping out to start his own interest with The Harris Law Firm.
“I can say I landed in the right profession. I love what I’m doing.”
The Harris Law Firm PLLC
“Even as a child I wanted to own my own business,” he said.
The Harris Law Firm practices in the areas of personal injury, social security disability, labor and employment, bankruptcy and wrongful foreclosures.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to identify plaintiffs that have had strong cases and we’ve been able to help them to get results, and more than just the typical kinds of results, but results that made a huge difference in their lives,” Harris said.
The firm’s motto is “clients first, service second to none” and Harris has made it a point to make time for pro bono work helping the elderly and will soon be unveiling a project focused on this group.
Harris said he has a soft spot for the “more seasoned Memphians,” a concern emphasized when he was able one day to help an elderly woman he met in court with a wrongful eviction action.
“The reason I really enjoy doing pro bono work for elderly persons is because my grandparents raised me and I would hate for someone to take advantage of my grandparents,” he said, adding that the elderly “have paved the way for us, and the least we can do is show them some respect and appreciation by helping them with small legal issues that make a big difference in their lives.”
The challenge of running a law firm for Harris has fallen mainly with the business side of the equation, the side where an MBA comes in handy. It’s also where his staff comes in, and he’s chosen to expand with knowledgeable paralegals and by “finding talent that can grow with you.”
Good fortune has followed Harris from college to law school and back to Memphis, and he was recently one of two panelists to speak on starting a successful law practice at a National Bar Association conference in Memphis.
“That was a great opportunity for me and I was certainly honored that they chose my firm,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who really got lucky and happened to pick the right path. I can say I landed in the right profession. I love what I’m doing.”