The Law Faculty was saddened to hear of the death of Donald Harris, QC (Hon), BA LLM New Zealand, BCL MA Oxf, LLD Keele.

Don Harris

Image courtesy of Balliol College

He was a Fellow and Tutor in Jurisprudence at Balliol College 1956–1976, Senior Research Fellow 1977–1993 and Emeritus Fellow from 1993. He died on 10 August 2020.

Don was a specialist in contract and tort and had a particular interest in remedies and the day to day reality of contractual relations.  He had an impressive academic career as a Tutorial Fellow at Balliol and was a specialist in contract and tort, subjects he taught on the BCL for many years.  

Don played a central role in establishing the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford in 1972 and was its Director for 21 years. This placed him at the forefront of the move in legal scholarship from traditional black-letter approaches to one supplemented by a socio-legal perspective, making use of the insights of the social sciences in the study of law and legal phenomena. It is no exaggeration to say that in his time at the Centre Don made the most important contribution of the era to securing the institutional foundations of socio-legal studies in the UK through the research conducted at the Centre, and the staff and research students brought there to be schooled in multidisciplinary analysis of law, its institutions, its processes and impact.

He had an enormous capacity for hard work, though it was through the force of his personality that Don made the Centre an exciting and pleasant place in which to work and created a strong sense of collective effort and community. His former colleagues remember him most for his personal qualities, his sheer humanity and decency, his modesty and willingness to forsake any kind of personal recognition, his optimism, sense of fun and, not least, his shining integrity. It is fashionable to think that leadership skills can be learnt but Don was a natural. He inspired enduring loyalty, respect and friendship in all those he worked with.  

He was instrumental in appointing and mentoring at least two generations of socio- legal scholars many of whom became leaders in the field in the UK and abroad.  Don also worked behind the scenes in setting up and nurturing the Socio-Legal Studies Association. His legacy continues to be enjoyed by socio-legal scholars across the world.

Linda Mulcahy