From Small Town to Big Law

Luke Harriman Headshot

Partner, ArentFox Schiff

Luke Harriman '13 wasn't sure what to do with his J.D., but Chicago-Kent showed him what was possible.

Luke Harriman
Law '13

“Although I can’t erase the pain of the death of a spouse or a parent, I can ease the burden on families by making the estate administration process easier,” says Luke Harriman ’13.

Harriman guides clients through estate planning at ArentFox Schiff LLP, where he was recently made partner. The firm was founded more than 150 years ago and is home to more than 650 lawyers—but partner in a big law firm is a long way from where Harriman comes from.

“I grew up in a trailer park in a small town in Montana, and there wasn’t exactly a well-trod path to being a partner at a major law firm,” he says. “Chicago-Kent College of Law was an integral part of that journey, and it’s given me more satisfaction than just about anything else I’ve ever done.”

Harriman received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, so he was familiar with the city when he started at Chicago-Kent, but he says that the law school helped him get a leg up in the competitive legal market.

“It’s right in the middle of one of the largest legal markets in the world, with hundreds of significant firms within walking distance,” he says.

The school’s location allowed Harriman to work as a judicial extern for Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, now chief judge of the United States District Court’s Northern District of Illinois, while he was in law school. He also graduated first in his class.

“Something about Kent just clicked for me,” he continues. “The students were intelligent and motivated without being jerks. The professors were highly qualified academics who cared about teaching and developing their students, which is a rare combination.”

Harriman says he came to law school on a whim without a real clear direction about what he wanted to do with his J.D. Chicago-Kent provided the guidance he needed to build the foundations of his future career.

“Professor Harold Krent was a very valuable mentor to me, both during law school and afterward. He gave me great advice on significant career moves a couple of times,” says Harriman. “I took two courses with Professor Evelyn Brody, and—I swear I am not kidding—I decided that tax law was interesting.”

Harriman also connected with Professor Steven J. Heyman, for whom he worked as a teaching assistant for two courses. Imitating Heyman showed Harriman how to explain complex legal ideas, a skill that proved crucial to his future career.

“I found out that I really enjoyed teaching legal concepts and making them understandable,” he says. “At the time I just did it because it was fun, but it turns out that explaining the law is more or less what I do all day now. I spend most of my time explaining trust law or tax law concepts, whether to clients or to associates at our firm.”

Harriman also expands his work beyond his clients and his firm. He’s a member of the Chicago Estate Planning Council and regularly speaks about estate planning and tax issues. But he never forgets where it all started.

“If you want to practice law, and especially if you want to do it in Chicago, there’s no better place to do it than Kent,” he says. “It has a great combination of academic rigor, practical skills training, and reputation in the area—which everybody knows already. What they may not realize is how supportive the school is of its students. It makes getting started in the legal world easier.”

More Stories