Harris received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in social science (with a specialization in the sociology of culture) from the University of Chicago, where she also received her J.D. She clerked for Judge Joel M. Flaum on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and then briefly practiced with the firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco before making her way to Berkeley. At Berkeley Law, Harris taught a variety of courses.
Harris is the author of a number of widely reprinted and influential articles and essays in critical legal theory. She is also a prolific co-author of casebooks, including Criminal Law: Cases and Materials; Race and Races: Cases and Materials for a Diverse America; Gender and Law; and Economic Justice. Along with Carmen Gonzalez, Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, and Yolanda Flores Niemann, she is editor of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (2013), a well-received anthology focused on the experiences of women of color faculty and graduate students.
Among other awards for her mentorship of students and junior faculty, she received the 2008 Clyde Ferguson Award from the Minority Section of the Association of American Law Schools. She played an active role in founding LatCrit, Inc. and ClassCrits, two organizations that regularly host conferences and publish symposia for legal academics and others writing from a critical perspective on issues of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and class. She was also a founder of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley Law. At King Hall, she founded the Aoki Center for Critical Race and Nation Studies, a student-faculty initiative that promotes scholarship, teaching and learning, and public conversation on issues of race and ethnicity at the law school and beyond.