Lee Harris, Class of 1977
When disaster strikes, Lee Harris helps clients “get their lives back”
For Lee S. Harris ’77, daily headlines serve as reminders of things that need to be changed.
“There are a lot of competing interests in society and not all are friendly to consumers,” says Harris, partner at Goldstein, Gellman, Melbostad, Harris & McSparran. “We’ve made progress protecting people in a lot of cases, but there are areas that still need to be taken care of. When you have something that’s very high publicity, it highlights some of the problems and that’s a good time to fix them.”
As the new president of the Consumer Attorneys of California, Harris is building on the organization’s success in tackling some of those high-profile problems — last year, for example, the group was instrumental in helping pass consumer protection legislation after the Wells Fargo scandals. On Harris’ list this year: serving as the voice of the California people on such issues as the Equifax data breaches, sexual harassment scandals, and insurance issues that will crop up related to the wildfires and Southern California mudslides.
It’s very satisfying to be able to help people get their lives back and make a real difference for them.
A nationally recognized trial lawyer who works with individuals and small businesses on insurance, personal injury, and construction defect problems, Harris pioneered the handling of home damage and destruction insurance cases in the Bay Area in the 1980s and ’90s.
“People generally come to meet with me on the worst or the second worst day of their lives,” Harris says. “We can’t fix everything, but when we can help, it’s very satisfying to be able to help people get their lives back and make a real difference for them.”
Soft Skills Matter
An interest in government and a desire to help others is what inspired Harris to attend law school. The USF School of Law stood out, he says, because of its emphasis on improving society. “It was a natural fit,” Harris says. At USF, he discovered an academically rigorous program that also offered a welcoming, collaborative community of students and professors.
That willingness and ability to work together is a trait Harris sees in the many USF grads he’s worked with throughout the years.
“There’s a very high level of ability to deal with people among USF grads,” Harris says. “One of the greatest strengths, in addition to the legal skills, of USF grads are the personal skills. That ability to interact well with others is emphasized and encouraged at USF. It’s an approach that has been vital in my career and one that I continue to use every day.”