40 Years of Influence: Donald Harris

In 1973, Donald Harris ‘76 was planning to attend the University of California Hastings College of Law at San Francisco. However, a spiritual prompting brought him to the new J. Reuben Clark Law School.

During law school, Harris volunteered as a deputy clerk at the Provo courthouse and as a prosecutor in Utah County. He also worked as a teaching assistant for Professors Kimball and Deem.  Harris credits Professor Deem for the valuable lessons Harris learned about interacting with other people. He learned to treat others with respect and to make friends with all the people he worked with—not just the other attorneys. 

In addition to volunteering and teaching, Harris worked full-time for Safeway during his second and third years of law school. According to Harris, these were challenging times during which he learned much.  “[My experience then] taught me how to work hard my whole life,” he said.

Harris credits law school for helping him attain other valuable skills that continue to benefit his life. “Without law school I would have had nothing,” he said. “BYU Law School is unique because it teaches you law as well as values.” 

Since law school, Harris has used his legal degree for good in numerous capacities. He first began working as a deputy attorney general for the State of Idaho and was later appointed as an assistant United States attorney for the District of Idaho. He worked in private litigation for nearly 30 years with Holden Kidwell Hahn & Crapo in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Harris remembers a defining moment with former Dean Rex E. Lee. At the time, Lee was the Solicitor General for the United States under the Reagan administration.  Harris was also in the D.C. area as a federal prosecutor. Lee invited Harris to sit in on a case that Lee was arguing in the Supreme Court. As Harris observed, he was struck by the way Lee conducted himself –  as an exceptional representative of BYU Law.  “I had the experience of sitting by him and watching the admiration that those of the Supreme Court had for him – even those that disagreed with him,” he said.

While in Idaho, Harris chaired the State Bar Litigation Section for over three years and developed a trial and ethical skills training for young lawyers. He also assisted in developing and teaching CLE’s for the State Bar. He is currently serving a full-time LDS mission with his wife  in San Diego’s inner city, where they serve in homeless shelters and in an LDS ward. Harris says his legal background has helped him in his non-law related endeavors: “My legal training at BYU has helped me with everything I do.”