Lawyer takes love of golf and law online
Updated 7:13 pm, Tuesday, July 12, 2011
A Westport lawyer has combined his passion for golf and the law and taken it into cyberspace.
"It's an intersection of a number of interests I have," said Harris, 55, who often serves as a mediator and arbitrator. "Golf is my therapy, and I've practiced law since 1982."
Harris said he developed the site, which one day received more than 1,000 hits, with no commercial or promotional interests in mind.
"If there are collateral benefits that come out of this, then all the better," he said.
The website's 25 articles involve 15 golf-dispute topics, such as country club membership, discrimination, injuries and public courses. It also has a category called "Quirky and Unusual," where one can read a story about an elderly woman's golf cart getting stolen at Fairfield's Brooklawn Country Club.
Harris said golf's legal issues are no different than problems found elsewhere in society because the sport encompasses a very broad array of considerations, such as travel, human resources, businesses, injury and intellectual property.
"The kinds of disputes that arise in golf parallel the world we live in," said Harris, a Scarsdale, N.Y., resident who practices with Levett Rockwood PC in Westport.
"If someone has an injury or a wrong, someone will go to court if they can't resolve it themselves," he said, adding that Arizona and North Carolina each have a law firm specializing in golf disputes due to the sport's popularity in those states. "There you'll see disputes involving the sport."
Harris said he planned on writing a book of vignettes on golf-related disputes about nine years ago.
"Someone beat me to it, so this was a way to resurrect it," he said. "I enjoy reading some of these quirky stories about golf, and it's also a way to remind people that mediation and arbitration are very important to me."
Harris said his "modest" golf career began at 11 years old when he lost a 9-hole junior boys championship at Tuscarora Country Club in Danville, Va. Undaunted, he went on to win the men's match play at his local Putt-Putt miniature golf course at 14 and played as a member of Haverford College's golf team in Pennsylvania. He has also won the Bridgeport Bar Association golf tournament and still hits the course when weather and time allow.
Being a golfer helps a lawyer act as an effective mediator and arbitrator in golf-related disputes, said Harris, who has handled one golf dispute and worked for a firm representing a golf club in legal issues.
"There are subtleties to knowing and appreciating the industry that others may not know," he said.
Harris has spent most of his career with private practices, including Levett Rockwood, which he joined in 2010. Before Levett, he served for five years as general counsel and chief administrative officer to hedge fund manager OpHedge Investment Services in Rye Brook, N.Y.
He serves on panels sponsored by the American Arbitration Association, American Dispute Resolution Center, Litigation Alternatives and ADR Select. He is also former chairman of the Connecticut Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. In 2004, he received "The Honorable Robert C. Zampano Award for Excellence in Mediation."
A considerable number of legal disputes arise in golf's equipment segment as a result of the fierce competition amongst inventors for the newest golf club or ball, said Ron Drapeau, executive director of the Connecticut State Golf Association.
"Patents are public, which allows competitors to view other competitor inventions with the intent of finding a way around the successful products while delivering the same performance characteristics -- an `imitation is the purest form of flattery' concept," he said. "This behavior by all competitors raises disputes which eventually get litigated."