The Human Lawyer: Neubia Harris
Neubia Harris is invested. She is invested as the co-chair of the Wellness Committee for the Young Lawyers Division at the North Carolina Bar Association. She invested in her professional development as a graduate of the North Carolina Bar Association Leadership Academy. She has invested by devoting her career to serving others—whether at Legal Aid or in private practice where she focuses her practice on education and juvenile law.
How’d you get to where you are today?
Faith, prayer, and love. I have always wanted to be a lawyer. My mother will tell you that from 3 years old I was obsessed with all things law—whether it was Law and Order (the original), Matlock, The Practice, or Ally McBeal. My mother raised me alone, with some support from my grandparents. I did not have much in the way of material things, but Mom made sure I had faith. Church on Sunday was mandatory, as was bible study on Wednesday, and the occasional week-long revival. I. Hated. It.
However. So. Many. Lessons. Learned. Through my faith, I have been to some of the most wonderful and seemingly unattainable places. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. See Matthew 17:20. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college. I prayed. My community prayed. We raised money. Through God’s grace, I was awarded scholarships and grants. So what seemed impossible—college—became possible.
Fast forward to the possibility of law school. No chance, right?
Would I even get into law school?
If I did, how could I pay for it?
Do those two things, so what! How would I even pass the bar?
Looking back, I realize how dark a place this was for me.
But through faith and love, I made it. I went to law school. I paid for it [still paying :)]. I passed the bar [on the first try]. As much as I may want to take credit for my accomplishments, I know entire communities prayed on my behalf. My best friend kept me calm when I wanted to quit. On the first night after the bar exam, she made dinner with meat, even though she’s been a vegetarian for more than twenty years. That’s love.
After law school, with full appreciation for those who made my journey possible, I knew I must give back to my community, to my neighbors, and to those who have not had it as easy as others. To do that, I began working as a lawyer at the Legal Aid of North Carolina. From that experience, I wanted to expand my impact on my community and, in doing so, build a legacy for my children and grandchildren. So, I jumped off the cliff and started the Law Office of Neubia L. Harris, PLLC. My loving husband, family, and friends have supported me through the journey. They pray for me. They cry with me. They read business plans. They counsel me. They love me. With heaping doses of faith, prayer, and love, I am here today with great anticipation for what lies ahead tomorrow.
What inspires/fulfills you in your practice?
The children. My favorite singer of all time is Whitney Houston. Whitney said it best
I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter, remind us how we used to be.
In high school, college, and law school I have consistently worked with or around children. I’ve worked in day cares, summer camps, and nannied. I was the co-leader of a girl scout troop. Children rejuvenate me. They clarify and refine my life purpose: to ensure that this world is left better for them. They teach me creativity, innovation, kindness, and patience. They demonstrate the value of individuality, unconditional love, and curiosity. Every day, I am emboldened by stories of children being let down by adults who are supposed to love, nurture, teach, or protect them. I work to stand in that gap, to lift up that child who feels let down by another adult. And that’s how I ended up in education and juvenile delinquency law. I’m here because I believe everyone has a right to a sound basic education. I also believe that supporting a young person in helping him or her get a second, third, or even fourth chance is far more restorative than allowing that same person to feel processed by the system.
Outside of your practice, what are you passionate about?
Music. I love to sing. If I did not practice law, I would definitely be a singer. I will belt out anything. You name it. Adele. Easy. Just call me Adele Jr. Ying Yang Twins? No worries; I got that, too. Ha!
I am also passionate about pitbulls. Breed-specific legislation drives me mad. Pitbulls (aka, Bullies), like many of the kids I work with, get a bad rap. They are not bad dogs. Some were taught bad things, and put in bad situations. Like all of us, pitbulls are a product of their experiences. Repeated bad, unhealthy experiences leads to bad, unhealthy behaviors. However, it’s not a breed problem. If you’re in the greater Raleigh area, you may see me proudly rocking my “bully mom” shirt.
What’s one thing you would change about the practice of law?
If I could, I would eliminate the need to constantly be working. I started my own practice, in part, because I wanted to have a better work life balance. I’m a work in progress on that front. I find myself working all the time—evenings, weekends, early in the morning . . . you name it. Lawyers have perfected a culture where if you’re not working all the time, you’re not working enough. I wish I could snap my fingers, and our profession would be more receptive to boundaries and balance. When I am in the office, I am working. When I am out of the office, I’m not.
Your most unique personal fact that the world should know, go!
In 2005, I went to Australia. There, I held a koala like a baby, held a 15-20-foot python around my neck, fed a wallaby named “Stinky” people food, and traversed with kangaroos and their brand new joeys. So cool. But so terrifying.
As cool and unexpected as life has been, I can’t wait for life’s next surprise. All of which are made possible through faith, hope, and love.