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Northwestern University has named Evanston resident Philip L. Harris its vice president and general counsel.

The appointment of Harris, who’s now a partner at the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block, LLP, is effective Jan. 1. It was announced today by the school’s president, Morton Schapiro.

Serving as Northwestern’s chief legal officer, Harris will provide counsel to the president and the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, as well as direct outside counsel on all cases and issues. He will succeed Thomas G. Cline, who is retiring after 27 years at the university.

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Harris, 57,  has been a partner at Jenner & Block since 2004 and serves on the firm’s management committee and co-chairs the Product Liability and Mass Tort Defense Practice.  Throughout his legal career, Harris has defended large companies in substantial and complex product liability, mass tort and commercial cases.  He has been the lead attorney in jury trials for those cases.

Harris is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and the Aspen Institute Henry Crown Values Based Leadership Program. He has served on many civic boards in Chicago, including the Chicago Children’s Museum, Children’s Memorial Hospital, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago Zoological Society and the Chicago Committee for Minorities in Large Law Firms.

Harris has been a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees for 25 years. He is currently a vice chair of the board and a member of the executive committee. He served as chair of the board’s student affairs committee for 10 years, acting as a liaison between the trustees and students. He has chaired the Native American Outreach and Inclusion Task Force and other panels at the school.

“We are very pleased to have Phil join Northwestern in this important leadership position,” Schapiro said. “In his role as a trustee, we have already benefited from his thoughtful counsel on many issues, and we now will have the opportunity to get that on a daily basis. Phil brings terrific experience and an abiding passion for Northwestern, and I look forward to working closely with him.”

Harris received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern in 1980 and his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.

“President Schapiro is a dynamic president who has demonstrated excellence in leadership and established an incredible leadership team,” Harris said.  “I look forward to joining his team and working with him and the board, doing what I can to help make a great university even better.”

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