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Heather Harrigan is a people person. Outgoing, encouraging, energetic – she enjoys helping others solve problems. As such, it is not surprising that she found her way into counseling and the law. Last March, she found her way to the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she took over as assistant dean for career services.
Right away, Harrigan began reaching out to students and she welcomes them to stop by her office anytime. “Working with and getting to know all of you is the best part of the job!” she wrote to students in an email one week after joining the UNM School of Law administration, announcing a workshop outlining student opportunities in state and federal courts.
Along with her infectious energy, Harrigan brings to the position five years of career counseling at the University of San Diego School of Law. For the past two years, she was the school’s associate director of career services. In that position, she developed an extensive monthly programming schedule of events, workshops and programs for students and kept track of data for more than 300 graduates every year, among other duties.
Harrigan grew up in Virginia and Maryland and earned three degrees from the University of Virginia: a bachelor’s in psychology and English, a master’s in counseling and a J.D. She was no stranger to the law: “My mother is a tax lawyer in Washington, D.C. and she is one of the happiest lawyers I know. She was a great role model and mentor.”
Initially, Harrigan went into estate planning, drawn to the opportunity to work with individuals. After a couple of years, she was ready to combine her experience as a lawyer with her interest in counseling. Not only did she make a career leap into law-firm administration, but she traveled across the country to do so. In 2006, she was hired as recruiting coordinator by Latham & Watkins in San Diego.
The following year, she joined the career services office at the University of San Diego School of Law, when the legal profession was experiencing its last year of a hiring boom before the recession struck. Even so, she enjoyed the work and the challenges of advising graduates in a tightening job market.
At UNM, she is excited to build her own career services program. She is grateful for the strong foundation already in place and the school’s supportive community among faculty, students and staff.
Her first priority is to link the law school to the industry-standard web-based career services management system. This virtual job board will be available to both students and UNM School of Law alumni. She also looks forward to building relationships with law students and others in the New Mexico legal community, developing marketing strategies with employers and creating professional development plans for students.
“I know that for a lot of students, their post-graduate job search is one of the biggest stress-inducing aspects of law school – even more than the Socratic Method,” said Harrigan. “I hope to do all I can to ease that stress and see them find their place in the legal profession.
“The reward I look forward to most is when a student walks into my office and tells me they got the job they wanted,” she said. “And then I get to develop relationships that I hope will last for many years.”
Harrigan is thrilled to be in New Mexico, a place she has visited often. Her husband, Ryan Harrigan, is an Albuquerque native. She looks forward to raising their two boys, Wesley, 3, and Gage, 16 months, surrounded by family, as she was growing up on the East Coast.
April 17, 2012