Law School: UC Berkeley Boalt Hall 1969
Area of Practice: Criminal Defense; Personal Injury; Native American Civil Rights
Location: San Francisco
Harris cofounded the San Francisco Community Law Collective in the Mission District in 1970 to represent and empower community groups and activists, and to demystify the law. At the Collective the legal workers and the lawyers were equal partners, having equal salaries and equal decision making. It was one of the first truly multi-racial law firms and was house counsel for numerous radical groups indigenous to the Mission community. The Collective believed in passing on its skills and philosophy and therefore it hired young lawyers who were trained for 1-2 years, and it also had an aggressive program to mentor law students given placements in the firm.
After clerking for a federal judge, Harris made an impact with his defense acquittal in a federal bank robbery trial, utilizing a novel “black rage” strategy. He also worked on high profile political cases, such as that of “Los Siete de la Raza,” Black Panther leader Huey Newton, the draft refusal of anti-war leader Leonard McNeil, and the bombing case of feminist health worker Stephanie Kline. Through his efforts, Paul Harris was able to provide a wonderful sense of the human side of the law. He was written up as one of the best criminal trial lawyers in America. He wrote the critically acclaimed book Black Rage Confronts the Law, and Warrior-Lawyer, a short manual on how to do progressive law practice.
Harris became National President of the Guild in 1979 and created a new era of trust in the organization. Due to a disability Paul can no longer do trials; but he continues to mentor law students and consult with young lawyers. He also provides legal advice to individuals and organizations and often speaks at law schools, conferences, and workshops. He teaches “Guerrilla Lawyering” at Golden Gate and USF law schools. For more information visit www.guerrillalaw.com.