University of Arizona Law graduate David Herrera Perera ('20) was born and raised in Spain's Canary Islands.
David knew from a very young age that he wanted to attend law school and become a lawyer, and he credits his grandparents, with whom he lived for part of his childhood, with influencing his pursuit of higher education. David says, "They were always there, telling me, 'You have to study, you have to study.'"
His grandfather, a goat shepherd, and grandmother, a field worker, ingrained in him the importance of education and encouraged him to work towards a career outside of manual labor.
David did just that, earning a law degree in Spain in 2012. Graduating during a time of economic crisis made it difficult to find work, so he and his then-girlfriend, now-wife moved to the U.S. in search of better opportunities.
"Since when we first moved, I was thinking of finding work in the legal field. I came to the U.S. as an attorney, so I was thinking, 'Why not?' But I heard getting into law school was super difficult, and I wasn't familiar with the language, so I thought it was impossible for me."
He eventually joined the human resources department of a small law firm in Houston, Texas. He considered getting an associates degree to do paralegal work, but then wondered what was stopping him from applying to law school. He shares, "I started to look into requirements and thought, if I can do it in Spain, I can do it here too."
David discovered Arizona Law's JD for Non-U.S. Lawyers, realizing the advanced admissions path would give him credit for his previous legal training: "I thought, that is for me."
With support from his colleagues at the law firm in Houston, David applied to Arizona Law. He and his wife made their third U.S. move, arriving in Tucson just a few days before orientation. As his first semester got underway, he quickly noticed the differences from his previous law school experience.
"In Spain, we don't have the Socratic method; there it is more of a lecture. The professor just talks and talks and talks. People there don't ask questions in class. But here, a law class is more engaged. That was a big change for me."
He says the Arizona Law community was essential to adjusting to the new format.
"Here, there is a support network that makes things easier. If you have a question or you have a problem, you can go talk to someone, because there is someone in charge of helping you with that."
David says his class cohort checked in with one another to make sure they were doing well, not only academically, but also personally. Faculty were always available to offer guidance, which he says was particularly important as a first-generation student without family members who had walked the path before him.
"I am not a person who asks too many questions, but I knew I could go to my professors and talk to them. They will give you honest advice."
David graduated in December and now works at a small Tucson firm that focuses on business and employment law and estate planning. His goal is to learn as much as possible and to help the firm grow within the Hispanic market, a community he hopes to work with throughout his career. He shares,
"In the long term I want to open my own firm focusing on the Hispanic population. My goal is to empower them and show them the tools at their hands, so they can show the rest of the country their value when there is a level playing field."
As he considers the journey he has taken in his career and as a first-generation student, David points back to his persistence as key to success.
"I once read, it doesn't matter how many times you fall, what matters is how many times you rise up. That works for everything in life, not just law school."