In Memoriam: Larry D. Harris

AuthorBy Leslie O'Neal, Deborah Ballati, and Andrew Ness
Published in
The Construction Lawyer
, Volume 41, Number 3. © 2021 American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not
be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
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American Bar
American Bar Association
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Chicago, IL 60654-7598
The Forum lost one of its best with the passing of Larry Harris on May 14, 2021.
The Forum Chair in 1998–1999 and, 15 years later, President of the American
College of Construction Lawyers, Larry was an outstanding construction law-
yer and, in his later career, a highly-regarded arbitrator and mediator. What
set Larry apart, however, had little to do with his pure legal skills. It was his
consummate ability to connect nearly instantly with anyone and form a lasting
bond in minutes. Wherever a group of people gathered for a social occasion, if
Larry was there, everyone was having a better time because he was telling jokes
and stories, getting even the shyest person talking and laughing, and bringing
everyone into the conversation.
Of the three of us, Andy had the luck to know Larry the longest, having rst
met him when Larry transitioned to private practice from government service in
1980. In a matter of months, Larry was the social centerpiece of the 30-attorney
rm. He came up with nicknames for people, and thereafter he referred to you
only by that nickname. He’d pop into to your ofce to recruit you for a social event
with a comment along the lines of, “You should come with us after work—Dog,
Fitz, D-Man, and the Perfessor are all coming, and you don’t want to miss it!”
In the mid-1980s, Larry became active in the Forum and quickly rose through
the ranks, greatly liked by all. Many have commented on his sense of humor,
infectious smile, kindness, and devotion to family and friends. Those who knew
him best, however, tend to focus on another quality: his authenticity. Larry was
"one of the most genuine guys you would ever meet.” He remembered your kids’
names and always asked about them. If you asked him to do you a favor, like
writing a letter to his alma mater supporting your daughter’s application, he
went all out, even if you’d only met him a few times. In a room full of people,
Larry was the person you most wanted to be around; he was "a great guy to
hang out with.” After sharing a cab ride with Larry, you felt you were life-long
friends. Many Forum leaders can trace becoming active in the Forum to an
event where Larry convinced them to get up early the next morning and attend
another one. He told you it would be fun, and you believed him.
Although he was a successful construction and government contracts lawyer
and an active member of many professional groups, Larry was rst and fore-
most devoted to his family. Many times he took red-eye ights from a meeting
on the West Coast to be back for one of his children’s activities. They were his
rst priority.
Even those of us who saw him only two or three times a year were always
happier, calmer, and more inspired after spending time with him. His self-
effacing humor put everyone at ease, no matter the setting. In Forum
committee settings or the Governing Committee, Larry created an atmo-
sphere where others could shine and feel free to express views and opinions
no matter how controversial. When the Governing Committee rst decided
to undertake a book project, Larry was initially skeptical, but he soon whole-
heartedly supported it, and others supported it because "Larry does." The
world has lost a special person; we were all lucky to spend time with him,
and we all became better for having known him.
—Leslie O’Neal, Deborah Ballati, and Andrew Ness
In Memoriam

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