Alreen Haeggquist: Fired Up & Fighting for Justice
Sarah Almond Pike*
Alreen Haeggquist simply cannot stay silent when she sees injustice done. Alreen was shaped this way during a difficult childhood but turned that adversity into the fuel to represent survivors of harassment and abuse at her own firm, Haeggquist & Eck, LLP. This fall she published her first book, which details this journey and aims to provide hope to other survivors.
The San Diego FBA is pleased to feature Alreen and her story in this month’s spotlight.
Fueling Triumph from Early Trauma
Alreen’s family is Indian, and she was born in Pakistan, the youngest of 10 children. Her family moved to the San Fernando Valley where she spent her formative years.
Alreen had a difficult childhood, which she shares in her recently released book Fired Up: Fueling Triumph from Trauma. Beyond the bigoted bullying she endured at school as a Muslim child of color, the biggest threats she faced were at home. Alreen’s book tackles the sexual abuse she experienced as a child from within her own family. She bravely shares with readers the impact of that abuse and the long process of healing from it, reclaiming her power, and using it to represent others as an attorney.
Alreen says part of the inspiration to write her book comes from those she represents. She shares that her clients—survivors of harassment, discrimination, and abuse—are brave to share their stories publicly to seek justice through the legal system. Alreen wanted to recognize and amplify that bravery by sharing her own story of abuse, rather than feeling shamed into silence.
Loving Law School
One of the positive authority figures in Alreen’s community growing up was a religious leader who was also a lawyer. From a young age, Alreen wanted to become a lawyer and use her voice to help others.
After graduating from the University of California at San Diego, she was thrilled to attend law school at California Western and loved the experience. She emphasizes that her community was key: “I studied with a very diverse group of people who all wanted to do something different with their law degree. Not only were they of different religions and races, but they were also at different places in their lives. One was older and law school was her second career, another was in the marines, another was married with multiple kids, another spent all her free time at Phish concerts. Despite our diversity, we shared wanting to do well in law school and wanted to help each other get there.”
Starting Something New: Launching Her Own Firm
After graduating from law school, Alreen practiced with the country’s largest plaintiffs’ class action firm, now known as Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP (“Robbins Geller”). She gained incredible experience litigating complex cases and a strong network of fellow attorneys and friends.
However, she ultimately decided she wanted a different kind of practice, one focused on speaking up for individuals who had been hurt and wronged. She also wanted to build her own firm culture that actively supported female attorneys rather than accepting barriers to their success as something inherent to the practice of law.
In 2008, Alreen launched her own firm, together with another female colleague from Robbins Geller, Helen Zeldes. They were shortly joined by a third former colleague, Amber Eck. Then called Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, the small but mighty team represented plaintiffs and grew by referrals and word-of-mouth. While she recalls that it was nerve-wracking to leave a steady job to start her own business, Alreen is proud of making the leap to do the work she finds most meaningful.
Now, having just celebrated its 15th anniversary, the firm has grown to a team of sixteen and counting. Haeggquist & Eck represents plaintiffs in employment matters and consumer class actions, as well as plaintiff survivors of sexual assault against service providers and entity defendants like medical facilities and college campuses. The diverse team includes an attorney roster that is more than 85% female. As Managing Partner, Alreen oversees all cases as well as the culture and growth of the firm.
Beyond fighting for her clients, Alreen is committed to being of service in her community. She was one of the founding board members of Think Dignity—previously named Girls Think Tank—which advances dignity for those experiencing homelessness through innovative service programs and advocacy. She also volunteers her time for organizations such as the California Innocence Project and served as President of the San Diego County Bar Foundation.
Today, Alreen makes it a priority for the firm to give back to the community, supporting numerous organizations, non-profits, and affinity bar groups. The firm also frequently volunteers as a team, from working on a community farm to providing meals to our neighbors utilizing safe sleeping sites.
Life Beyond the Law
Because “we spend so much time inside” as lawyers, Alreen takes time to get outdoors. She enjoys traveling to new places and getting together for wine and food with friends.
She also prioritizes spending quality time with her family. Her daughter Maya is an animal lover and budding equestrian. Her husband Mike is an architect and skilled woodworker, who custom-built beautiful wood pieces for the Haeggquist & Eck office.
Alreen also loves to cook. She has an abundant garden that provides many of her ingredients. (The team at our firm is frequently the fortunate recipient of fresh salads and fruits.) She recently turned that bounty into 50 jars of jam in a single weekend.
Federal Practice in San Diego
Alreen has been an FBA member for most of her career and continues to find value in its programming and events. “We practice in federal court, and I like to keep up with the lawyers practicing in federal court and knowing what the judges want from us as practitioners. “
Her favorite events include the Keep Seminar, Courtroom Conversations with new judges, and the Holiday Party hosted at Athens Market.
Alreen also feels fortunate to practice in the collegial San Diego legal community. “I think we have the best legal community in the country. We treat each other as colleagues regardless of what side of the ‘v’ we find ourselves on. In my 21 years of practice, many of these colleagues have become friends.”
Words of Wisdom
Alreen emphasizes the importance of making those meaningful connections for young attorneys or those new to federal practice. She encourages attorneys to make time to join community groups and attend events to get to know their colleagues and keep in mind that even those with different goals—like her group of law school friends—can support one another.
For her ultimate advice, Alreen shares the following: “Don’t wait—life is short. Do the work that you enjoy, love, and gets you excited to practice. Spend your days in the way that you want and that bring you joy. Doing meaningful work doesn’t have to wait.” May we all take that advice to heart and shape our practices accordingly.
*Sarah Almond Pike is a member of the San Diego Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and its Public Relations Committee. She is an associate attorney representing plaintiff employees at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP, and a former term clerk for the Hon. Dana M. Sabraw of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.