Philip L. Harris, currently a partner at the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block, LLP, has been appointed vice president and general counsel for Northwestern University, effective Jan. 1, 2016, Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro announced today (Nov. 20).
Serving as Northwestern’s chief legal officer, Harris will provide counsel to the president and the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, as well as direct outside counsel on all cases and issues. He will succeed Thomas G. Cline, who is retiring after 27 years at the University.
Harris, 57, brings a strong legal background to the post. He has been a partner at Jenner & Block since 2004 and serves on the firm’s management committee and co-chairs the Product Liability and Mass Tort Defense Practice. Throughout his legal career, Harris has defended large companies in substantial and complex product liability, mass tort and commercial cases. He has been the lead attorney in jury trials for those cases.
Harris also brings a long history of civic engagement and connections to Northwestern. He is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and the Aspen Institute Henry Crown Values Based Leadership Program. He has served on many civic boards in Chicago, including the Chicago Children’s Museum, Children’s Memorial Hospital, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago Zoological Society and the Chicago Committee for Minorities in Large Law Firms.
Harris has been a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees for 25 years. He is currently a vice chair of the board and a member of the executive committee. He served as chair of the board’s student affairs committee for 10 years, acting as a liaison between the trustees and students. He has chaired several important task forces for the University, including the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force.
“We are very pleased to have Phil join Northwestern in this important leadership position,” President Schapiro said. “In his role as a trustee, we have already benefited from his thoughtful counsel on many issues, and we now will have the opportunity to get that on a daily basis. Phil brings terrific experience and an abiding passion for Northwestern, and I look forward to working closely with him.”
Harris received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern in 1980 and his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. He is a member of the bar in Illinois and Iowa and is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court in both states, as well as the U.S. District Courts in both states and the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“President Schapiro is a dynamic president who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and established an incredible leadership team,” Harris said. “I look forward to joining his team and working with him and the board, doing what I can to help make a great university even better.”
Harris is AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer recognition for ethical standards and legal ability. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the Litigation Counsel of America and has been named a “Leading Law Firm Rainmaker” by Diversity & the Bar magazine. He received the 2008 Advocate for Diversity Award from the Filipino American Bar Association and The John Marshall Law School.
Harris and his wife, Gricel, live in Evanston. He has three daughters and two stepsons.