The opportunity to blend creative thinking with an intellectual challenge was what drew Jessie Harris, 1999 Gonzaga Law grad, to working in the law. Since law school, that opportunity has been a theme throughout his professional life. Named as Managing Director at Williams Kastner in January of this year, Mr. Harris has served in a wide variety of leadership roles, including on the Gonzaga Law Board of Advisers and a soldier in the Army Reserves.
Tell us about yourself and your work
I currently serve as Managing Director of my law firm, Williams Kastner, which has offices in Seattle, Tacoma and Portland and affiliated offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. I also practice as a general litigator with a focus on labor and employment, product liability and business litigation. When I am not working I enjoy spending time with family.
What do you most enjoy about your profession?
I find the practice of law to be extremely exciting and rewarding. I love the art of problem solving and taking a simplistic approach to seemingly complex issues. I also take seriously my role as a trusted advisor – a person upon whom my clients can rely for frank and earnest answers. The practice of law remains a noble profession of which I am proud to be a member.
What is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
Our civil justice system is adversarial in nature. It was designed that way and for understandable reasons. It is a system where lawyers are expected to vigorously represent their clients’ interests. That said, it is also expected (and rightly so) that lawyers adhere to principles of civility, candor and fair play all of which can sometimes prove difficult in an inherently adversarial system. Fortunately, most lawyers I know do a pretty good job at striking this important balance.
Why did you choose to attend law school?
I chose law school because I thought it would be intellectually challenging. I also thought it would afford me the opportunity to problem solve, engage in creative writing, and work with incredible people. I have not been disappointed.
How has your Gonzaga education influenced your career?
Similar to my upbringing, my experience at Gonzaga was steeped in hard work, the pursuit of excellence and service to others. I have tried to incorporate these values into my career endeavors.
What else are you passionate about?
I am passionate about creating opportunities for young people to be successful and achieve their goals. We often tell our young people that if they work hard and be responsible the “skies are the limit.” Unfortunately, this is not true for many. I have always been troubled by the notion that young people can work hard and do what is expected of them and still encounter barriers beyond their control.