The two terms of Steven M. Harris

Published in 2010 Illinois Super Lawyers magazine

By Nyssa Gesch on January 16, 2010


Growing up, Steven Harris’ career options seemed pretty limited. “In my household we were given two choices: law or medicine,” Harris says. “Since I was [the older brother] and I really don’t like blood, I chose law.”

Harris’ younger brother, Mitchel, is now a spine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and teaches at Harvard Medical School, while Harris, 53, a member at McDonald Hopkins in Chicago, managed to mix some medicine with his law. He advises businesses and health care clients on contractual and regulatory matters. His favorite cases, he says, are those in which he’s “able to bring substantial value over and above what the expectations were from the physician in the deal.”

He’s also expanded on those early career options. For the last eight years, Harris, the co-author of Medical Practice Divorce, has written a monthly column called “Contract Language” for the American Medical Association’s national publication. Plus from 2006 to 2009 he was a member of the board of directors of the Illinois State Highway Authority, responsible for 280 miles of tollway.

Then there’s mayor.

It wasn’t until 2000, when Bernard Forrest sought his ninth term, or 33rd year, as mayor of Deerfield, Ill., that Harris considered politics. “If people are in office too long they start to believe the office is theirs as opposed to being a steward for it,” Harris says. “I’m really into working very hard—like sprinting—for a short period of time and then stepping aside when it’s appropriate.”

Harris, at the time a resident of Deerfield for 13 years, thought Forrest was a great mayor but it was time for a change, and 55 percent of the electorate agreed. Harris served two terms, garnering more than 80 percent of the vote in his re-election. As mayor he brought two private educational facilities to Deerfield, negotiated the relocation of Takeda Pharmaceuticals to the town, oversaw the town’s 100-plus employees and maintained its AAA bond rating. Then, true to his words, and despite facing no opposition, he stepped down in 2009.

Harris says his years in office didn’t hurt his law practice. “If anything,” he adds, “[my practice was] enhanced by meeting new people and being involved in situations and relationships that I never would have met, or been involved in, had it not been for those opportunities.”

He’s not swearing off politics, either. “I have a strong type-A personality and I like to be in motion all the time. There’s an adrenaline rush when you are focused and busy over a prolonged period of time. It’s just part of my makeup, part of my DNA.”

So are there any other jobs he’d like? “I’d love to be a fishing guide,” he says. In retirement, of course.

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