Attorney at Law Magazine Palm Beach Publisher Rhenne Leon sat down with Robert Harris to discuss mentors and his legal heroes.
AALM: What do you find rewarding about being an attorney?
Harris: I feel rewarded aft er the court and jury adopts my assessment of the case. I get to be right. You don’t really get that in many professions. This is a humbling profession. You will lose when you think you should have won. And you will win when you think you should have lost. Don’t make enemies. Lose with dignity. Be modest in your victories. And find a mentor in the law.
AALM: What do you find challenging about your practice?
Harris: There is the misguided belief that you can’t be a successful attorney unless you work for a big firm. The profession can be unkind to smaller firms and solo practitioners who are very capable. Because they aren’t recognized by larger firms or seen as esteemed members of the legal profession, they aren’t given the recognition they deserve. I think we could overcome these challenges through more outreach between the big firms and small firms. I also think there should be a push for mentorship between smaller firms. My mentorship with William J. “Bill” Brown was valuable and helped me grow as a lawyer.
AALM: Tell us about your mentors.
Harris: William J. Brown was a hero to me. Bill wasn’t prone to excitement or self-aggrandizement. He studied law throughout his life and always fancied himself a student of law. Bill put clients first and being a lawyer right aft er that. He was patient, a gentleman. He was the epitome of what a lawyer should be – in an Atticus Finch sort of way. He knew what it took to try and win cases and he was always willing to teach young lawyers how to do this business at no cost. If you wanted to know how to become a good lawyer, Bill would make time if you were ready and willing. I always say law school taught me the law, but Bill Brown taught me how to be a lawyer.
AALM: Who are some of your legal heroes?
Harris: Ray Abadin came from humble beginnings and struggled to be taken seriously. He worked hard and put himself through undergrad and law school. He is a fine lawyer and good guy. Despite his struggles as a young man, he worked hard, raised a beautiful family, made a living for himself and become president of The Florida Bar. That kind of commitment to the law, his community and to his country is remarkable, just remarkable.
AALM: Which case most redefined your career?
Harris: I represented a dean at a law school in a multi-million- dollar contract dispute against foreign businesses in England, France, Gibraltar and Luxemburg. This case required heavy international travel, involving cutting-edge computer vision technology. Aft er going up against one of the country’s biggest law firms over a three-year period and in front of a jury trial, I prevailed for the client by securing them a favorable judgment.
AALM: What are some of your interests outside of work?
Harris: I’m a family man, married 20 years; I love my children and live for them. I love this country and believe in its exceptionalism. I love going scuba diving and I have a rescue diver certification. I love spending time with family and traveling. I like going to the golf range, and I really like going shooting.
AALM: How would you say your practice has evolved? What plans do you have for the future?
Harris: The practice is now getting more international and high-end cases. I find myself dealing with bigger businesses on both commercial litigation and employment law matters and I have added staff to be able to properly serve our growing clientele. Looking ahead, I hope to have several offices for the firm with locations in Florida, Washington, D.C. and New York. My vision is to hire a strong team of lawyers who practice in diverse areas of the law that I believe will complement our current practice.