Daniel Harris

Owner of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Harris, P.C.

2000 | Petoskey, MI

Grand Valley State University | Philosophy and Communications

“One of the most important things that you can have in your life is being fulfilled in the job that you’re doing.”

Much of the work that attorneys do is independent: from forming relationships with clients to managing cases, they have the freedom to write their own success stories. Daniel Harris, ’00, has seen that one of the biggest keys to achieving that success is just being yourself.    

Harris started law school immediately following his undergraduate degree program at Grand Valley State University. He received his Juris Doctor from MSU Law at the age of 24, moved back to his hometown of Petoskey to open his own firm, and he never looked back. Today, he manages three firms in Petoskey, Gaylord, and Detroit, where he primarily practices personal injury and criminal defense. 

On March 13, 2019, he returned to MSU Law to speak to law students in the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute – a program that prepares future Spartan lawyers to communicate, lead, and succeed in the courtroom with guidance from judges and practicing lawyers. Harris – who was also a member of the trial and moot court teams as a law student – shared that his affinity for personal injury law began at MSU Law.

“I love the profession,” he said, recognizing the compassion evoked by working on the “real” and emotional parts of a client’s case. “The people that we deal with are remarkable. The humanity we see on a daily basis is so important.”

Harris said one of the most difficult parts of his work is delivering hard news to a client, knowing that the right thing is to be honest, even if it’s not what they want to hear. According to Harris, lawyers should be mindful when setting expectations for a case, especially when a client is involved. He added that certainty should never be given, because there are no guarantees. “If you’re setting expectations from the beginning, you’re going to be fighting that the whole time,” he said.

He explained the fine line between controlling your client and being an advocate for their best interest: “Our job, as lawyers, is not to tell our clients necessarily what to do. Our job is to make sure they know what all of their options are so they can make an informed decision.” 

Working in the legal field comes with unique challenges, and those who succeed are the ones who are passionate about the work. Harris emphasized the importance of being authentic above all, because others will see right through you if you’re pretending to be something you’re not, like doing tricks in the courtroom that you can’t stick. 

“You can’t be anyone else. When you’re in front of a jury, the truth rings like a bell. You’re not going to sell them on something that isn’t true,” he said. “You be you, because it’s a feeling. What we do as trial lawyers is the purest form of sales that there is, it really is, and a lot of it is a feeling. You can feel it when you have the jury and they’re going for it, and you can feel it when they’re not. Juries are smart and they get the facts, but there are things that happen during the course of the trial that will sway them one way or another.”