Winter 2017 • Issue 59, page 14

Justin Harris: Lawyer With Divergent Industries Background & Speaks Tagalog

By *

A native of Southern California, Justin Harris spent the majority of his early years in Valencia, California, now part of the City of Santa Clarita. The oldest of six children, consisting of three brothers and two sisters, Justin became accustomed to a noisy, frenetic and fluid environment, where both love and noise were constants. Despite the large family, Justin’s dad would often remark that he and Justin’s mother had raised six only children. Hard work and independence were among the prime values instilled in Justin in his youth.

During a roughly four year hiatus, Justin’s family lived in Hayden Lake, Idaho, on a lake which afforded Justin opportunities for outdoor sports and activities of all varieties. Perhaps more importantly, the time in Idaho served as the starting point for a variety of jobs which Justin would later hold before entering the legal arena. Since his start working with a lumberjack, Justin has worked fast food, worked as a dishwasher, prepared vegetables in a commercial kitchen (including slicing, dicing, scrubbing and peeling), been a professional painter (this only means he was paid), cleaned construction sites and delivered construction materials, been a lifeguard and pool manager, worked at a shooting range, driven an airport shuttle, worked at a hotel, worked security and done advance work for a former President of the United States.

Justin began his college education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. After three semesters, Justin served a two-year mission for his church in the Philippines where he also became fluent in Tagalog. Upon his return to BYU in August 1993, Justin met Kolette, then a student and ballerina touring with BYU’s Ballet Troupe. In fact, when they met, Kolette had only recently returned from a month-long tour in South Africa. At that time, Justin was a competitive triathlete. Indeed, their first official date was at the Ernest Hemingway Memorial Biathlon, where Justin competed and won. Justin and Kolette have been married for 22 years, which is a tribute to Kolette’s patience and perseverance.

After completing their last year at BYU together, Justin was off to law school at McGeorge School of Law. No strangers to challenges, Justin and Kolette welcomed their first son, Logan, while vacationing in Southern California over Labor Day weekend only two weeks into law school. Logan (now 21) was born seven weeks premature, so he and Kolette spent the first month of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit in Van Nuys, while Justin continued law school in Sacramento. Justin did well in law school and published in the Legislative Review aka Green Sheets, following his first year of law school. Justin was also a member of Law Review as well as the Articles Editor for Law Review before graduating in 1998. 1998 also saw the birth of Justin’s second son, Connor (18), who is currently serving a two-year church mission in South Korea.

Following a summer clerkship in 1997 in Fresno, Justin returned to Fresno to join his first law firm of Dowling, Aaron & Keeler (now Dowling Aaron) after graduation where he worked in both the transactional and litigation departments. During the early years, Justin was referred to as “depo man,” as he averaged 300-400 depositions per year. 1999 saw the birth of Justin’s third son, Mason (17), who is currently a junior in high school. In July 2002, Justin joined Walter Law Group (now Walter Wilhelm Bauer), an insolvency boutique where he focused on bankruptcy litigation, as well as business and commercial litigation. In a single chapter 11, Justin filed over 630 adversary proceedings, which made him the highest filer of adversary proceedings for that year in the entire district. If he were to estimate, he would say that he filed nearly 80% of the total adversary proceedings that year in the Eastern District. 2003 saw the birth of Justin’s fourth son, Cooper (13), who is currently in the eighth grade.

In November 2006, Justin moved to Motschiedler, Michaelides & Wishon, LLP (now Motschiedler, Michaelides, Wishon, Brewer & Ryan, LLP) to explore some new opportunities and expand his practice. In 2008, he became a partner at that firm and remained there through April 2015. While there, Justin’s practice continued to focus on insolvency and litigation matters, but also included corporate, real estate and family law matters, and related transactional work. During this period, though generally covered by the insolvency umbrella, Justin also worked on receiverships, assignments for benefit of creditors, secured transactions, and workouts. While at that firm, Justin also had the opportunity to serve as a chapter 11 trustee in a case involving a gun store, largely because Justin has a Federal Firearms License and co-owned a gun store. Justin thoroughly enjoyed his time at that firm, but needed change.

In May 2015, Justin formed Harris Law Firm, PC to strike out on his own and create new adventures. Since being on his own, Justin’s practice has continued to focus on insolvency and litigation matters, but has greatly expanded in the areas of corporate, real estate and family law matters, along with the related transactional work. While not a fan of administrative matters, Justin greatly enjoys the freedom which comes with a solo practice. He enjoys the daily challenges and, frankly, believes that his solo practice makes him care more and has made him a better lawyer. Justin has always had a knack for attracting a wildly varied and eclectic mix of clients. He enjoys the challenges and opportunities for growth that they provide.

In addition to running a thriving practice, Justin also enjoys his real estate business. Justin has been a real estate broker since 2010 and represents buyers and sellers through his company, Harris Capital, Inc. This is a profitable distraction and helps to minimize what Justin describes as “business ADD.”

When not practicing law or engaging in real estate transactions, Justin has long participated in strength sports. For several years, Justin played rugby for Fresno Rugby Club, where he managed to retire having only broken his finger, albeit in three places. After rugby, Justin transitioned to the board of directors for Northern California Rugby to maintain a connection to the sport. After retiring from active play, Justin moved into powerlifting and strongman competitions (think World’s Strongest Man). After winning his division in Northern Nevada’s Strongest Man in August 2014, Justin made the shift to bodybuilding. In April 2015, Justin won his first bodybuilding competition in Los Angeles. Justin continues to compete in bodybuilding. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junky, Justin also enjoys snowboarding, wakeboarding, shooting, and motorcycle riding. Justin enjoys spending time with his family and thrill-seeking with them, and will not settle for being anything less than the best at any endeavor he pursues.