Michael Carrigan ('94)

Alumni of the Month Jan '12

In many ways, Michael Carrigan grew up at the University of Colorado. Carrigan comes from a true CU family; his father, Jim Carrigan, was a professor and member of the Board of Regents, and five of the six Carrigan children are CU alumni, including three Colorado Law graduates. After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1990, Carrigan returned to CU and earned his JD from Colorado Law in 1994.

During his third year at Colorado Law, Carrigan interned with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office and tried 18 cases. After law school, Carrigan clerked for the Honorable Clarence Brimmer in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming. Carrigan returned to Colorado in 1995 and went to work for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office. In 1997, he moved to the Denver District Attorney's Office where he worked for Denver DA (and later Colorado Governor) Bill Ritter ('81). Carrigan thrived as a prosecutor, trying more than 100 cases. In 2000, he joined a small plaintiff's firm that specialized in bad faith insurance claims. After taking a year off to do volunteer service, Carrigan resumed his private practice, this time as a partner with the Denver firm of Holland & Hart, where he currently practices.

Volunteer service is a huge part of Carrigan's life. In 2002, Carrigan and his wife, Sarah, left their jobs and moved to La Paz, Bolivia where they spent a year working on various education and health projects in some of the region's poorest areas. Carrigan was a board member of the American Red Cross's Mile High Chapter, and currently serves as the pro bono attorney for Easter Seals Colorado. In addition, he has volunteered for numerous local service projects, homeless shelters, non-profit organizations, and state boards. Carrigan is frequently recognized both for his practice as a lawyer and his service to the community. For example, Carrigan has been recognized as one of Colorado's top attorneys for the last four years by Colorado Super Lawyers; in 2005 the Denver Business Journal named him one of its "Forty Under 40"; and in 2005 he received the "Outstanding Community Service Award" from the Colorado Institute for Leadership Training.

Carrigan's commitment to CU and to Colorado Law is evident from his ongoing involvement with both communities. Carrigan has served on the University of Colorado Board of Regents since 2004, and this summer he was elected by a bipartisan vote of his colleagues to serve as the Chair of the Board of Regents. Every year, Carrigan and his siblings judge the final round of the popular Jim R. Carrigan Cup mock trial competition at Colorado Law. The cup was established in honor of former federal district judge Jim Carrigan, and the two top teams in the competition are selected to represent Colorado Law at the National Moot Trial Competition, the nation's oldest and most prestigious trial advocacy competition.

Five Questions for Michael Carrigan

What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?

While it might sound strange, the summer I took the bar was the one of the best summers of my life. The classes were full of my friends, and we could only study so many hours a day, so we had to make time for socializing and enjoying Colorado.

What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?

That the ability to take a law school exam has very little to do with the practice of law. 

What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?

The beauty of a law degree is that it can lead you to many different careers in the same profession. In less than 20 years I've worked as a law clerk, as a public prosecutor, in a small firm, in a big firm, and as a public official.

Who was the biggest influence on your career?

Denver District Attorney (later Governor) Bill Ritter ('81). His commitment to the justice system and to the duty of public prosecutors made a lasting impression on me. 

Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

In 2009-2010, I represented a construction contractor who was framed by a customer for stealing project funds. Not only was I able to convince the prosecutor to drop the case, I brought suit against the accusers and secured a seven figure, public settlement for my client. It was a wonderful testament for the positive role lawyers have in the lives of our clients.