Jennifer Turner Harrigan – Symphony Talent
Mention a certain, locally based national health and wellness organization to folks in the greater Pittsburgh area, and most of them will know exactly who you’re talking about. The second largest integrated delivery and financing system in the country, the organization employs more than 40,000 people, making it one of the region’s largest employers.
Dynamic services, promising growth, a profitable business model: The company checked all the boxes. What the organization needed, more than anything, was better branding and visibility in emerging markets—particularly among prospective employees.
By partnering with Symphony Talent, a global leader in employer brand and candidate experience solutions based in New York, the company was able to revamp its career website and launch a microsite aimed at drawing more veterans into the applicant pool.
Page views went up, bounce rates went down and—most important of all—the company was able to connect with a battery of fresh talent to bring on board.
Jennifer Harrigan didn’t write the code. She didn’t build the platform or design the creative elements. But she did provide the legal foundation and framework for all of it—and more.
“A lot of in-house counsel talk about having a seat at the table, but what makes Symphony so unique and refreshing is that the attorneys are at just about every table,” says Harrigan, Symphony’s chief legal officer. “We have a real role in helping Symphony’s clients achieve their goals.”
Tools of the trades
Symphony Talent empowers talent acquisition teams with data-driven insights to deliver speed, precision and automation to the hiring process. The company’s services include everything from career website creation and social media management to content marketing.
But it’s Symphony’s SaaS tools—which use real-time data and predictive analytics to help clients streamline their processes—that’ve made it a resource for companies looking to bolster their employer brand.
There’s an applicant tracking system to help recruiters search and sort for specific criteria (work experience, skillsets and so on); a candidate relationship management system to stay in touch with prospective interviewees; a platform for purchasing ads on Indeed and Glassdoor; and an advocacy tool that makes it easier for employees to disseminate news about the company on social media and become company ambassadors.
That makes for a lot of proprietary resources to account for. Together with her team, Harrigan handles a broad array of functions including contract negotiations, real-estate and insurance issues, managing the company’s growing intellectual property portfolio and providing strategic advice to senior management.
“We strive to be an integral part of the company: to learn the business, its goals and pain points, so we can support it in the most effective way,” Harrigan says.
Under lock and key
While having Symphony’s platforms in the cloud has proven a boon, the challenge of protecting client data looms larger than ever for Harrigan and her team—particularly in light of recent laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s Consumer Protection Act (CCPA).
Foremost on the company’s list of concerns is making sure that Symphony’s platforms have the latest security protocols—an effort Harrigan supports, alongside Symphony’s data protection officer.
To augment their internal legal efforts, Harrigan and her team partnered with lawyers from Axiom, a global alternative legal services provider. Leveraging Axiom’s legal services, Harrigan says, has allowed her access to “highly pedigreed lawyers with a breadth of experience”—all while reducing outside legal spending.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do, in addition to all of these important projects, is really evaluate how we leverage external resources,” Harrigan says. “In the case of Axiom, they gave us a chance to be more proactive. Months before GDPR went into law we began working with them and we are doing the same thing with CCPA.”
Her data privacy work is far from finished, however. With more than a dozen states looking to join California in implementing stricter data-protection laws, Harrigan and her team along with help from Axiom are already conducting due diligence on the potential scope of these laws.
Long and winding road
It’s a dynamic role, and one well suited to her career journey.
A graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Tufts University, Harrigan began her legal career as a law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. After her clerkship, she joined the New York firm of Shearman & Sterling as an associate in the firm’s mergers and acquisitions group.
From there, Harrigan spent much of her career in the entertainment industry, including at Universal Music Group, EMI Music North America, A&E Television Networks, and Take-Two Interactive Software.
“I don’t have the traditional, linear in-house general counsel experience,” she acknowledges. “Many general counsel come directly from the law firms where they acted as the clients’ outside general counsel, and whose senior partners sit on their clients’ boards. That wasn’t my path, and I think it made me a better lawyer—and prepared me for the role I have now.”
In Symphony, Harrigan found a company whose business model and unique technology platforms were eminently fascinating—and challenging. After two years as Symphony’s legal counsel, where she handled everything from contracts and legal disputes to creative problem solving, Harrigan was promoted to chief legal officer in 2017, where she has tackled additional challenges.
As a minority woman in a traditionally non-diverse role, Harrigan helps lead diversity initiatives and is an active member in Corporate Counsel Women of Color, a legal networking and advocacy group.
It’s yet another table at which Harrigan is proud to have a seat—and a voice that’s always being heard.
“Having as many perspectives at the table as possible is very useful, whether we’re talking about diversity initiatives or helping a client solve their problems or providing strategic advice to senior management,” Harrigan says. “It’s not enough to just show up. You have to be willing to be part of the solution—no matter what it is.”
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