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J. Harris Morgan, a founder and former Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section, died this past February in Greenville, Texas. Magazine board member Jim Calloway helps us remember Harris’s inestimable contributions.
J. Harris Morgan was there for the creation of the organized study of law practice management. With the daily flood of information about practice management and technology today, it is hard to believe that a few decades ago a small group of lawyers had to envision and promote the idea that lawyers needed to focus on improved business practices. This was back in the days when the prevailing wisdom said the practice of law was a learned profession, but not also a business.
In the 1970s, Harris, along with Sam Smith, Jay Foonberg, Jimmy Brill and other visionaries, put together a barnstorming tour to carry the message of practice improvement to lawyers around the country. They agitated for the ABA to establish the Section of Economics of Law Practice (later renamed the ABA Law Practice Management Section). And once the Section was established, they personally did much of the early work.
His book How to Draft Bills Clients Rush to Pay is a classic. The thesis that clients should be given billing statements that reflect both effort on behalf of the lawyer and benefit to the client as a result of that effort rings as true today as when he first articulated it.
In 2001, he received the LPM Section’s Sam Smith Award. He was the second person to receive the award, which recognizes an individual who has demonstrated outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of law practice management.
Harris was a litigator, and an entertaining public speaker. He spoke at the Oklahoma Bar Association’s 2002 Solo & Small Firm Conference on his favorite topic: billing. Although it was a Saturday and the attire was casual, Harris was in his full “lawyer” dress, looking very proper and a bit grandfatherly. He was discussing how handwritten notes by the lawyer on bills make them more personal and let the client know that the lawyer personally reviewed the bill. He paused and then slowly said, “For example, if the case had been a bitterly contested divorce one might write a personal note, like … ‘Harry, I’m sorry Margaret was such a bitch.’” Caught off guard, the crowd roared in laughter as Harris gave us all a conspiratorial grin.
Harris led an active life outside of the law. He was instrumental in bringing symphony and pops concert series to Greenville, Texas, leading him to be named “Worthy Citizen of Greenville” by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.
Isaac Newton once famously remarked “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” J. Harris Morgan was a giant and the entire legal community worldwide has benefited from standing on his shoulders.
Edward H. Flitton passed away on March 27. He served on the LPM Section’s Executive Committee as the Director of Finance and was a member of LPM Council. Ed was a significant contributor to Law Practice magazine, as both a board member and author. He was 67. Born in Austin, Minnesota, Ed graduated from Harvard College and the University of Chicago Law School. He was a respected leader at Holland & Hart, serving as managing partner from 2000-2006. He retired from active practice at the end of 2006, but his acumen for financial and people management continued, providing guidance for his law firm and for the profession. In addition to his contributions to the LPM Section, he was a Fellow, Trustee and 2009-2010 President of the College of Law Practice Management. See tributes in this issue's Perspectives column by LPM Section Chair Micah Buchdahl, and in Taking the Lead by Karen MacKay..