What follows is an interview from Dillon Fishman ('05) with his classmate Laura Conover, the presumptive next Pima County Attorney and the featured speaker in our October 21 Soll Lecture.
Where are you originally from and what brought you to the University of Arizona for law school?
"I arrived in the Old Pueblo as a baby, and my mom decided this was her forever home. She instilled in us the lifelong love of Tucson, which really stuck with me. My brother and I have never left and have invested our energy here.
I wanted to practice law here in Tucson, so it was great fortune that my hometown had a fantastic law school right in our back yard. For high school, college, and law school I was basically in a three-block radius: attending Salpointe and then the University of Arizona for college and law school. In college I studied political science and Spanish, in part because my mom was committed to the importance of becoming bilingual --something that I still thank her for."
What stands out most from your time at the University of Arizona law school?
"The faculty and administration created a warm and supportive environment, despite the stress of the curriculum. They invested heavily in the short- and long-term success of students."
What was your path from law school to the present day?
"I attended law school with the purpose of working in the criminal justice system. I went to the County Public Defender's Office, first as a clinical law student for two years and then as an attorney for three more. Afterward I moved to the Federal Public Defender's Office for about seven years until I established my own small law practice. I handled diverse cases ranging from security clearance matters and criminal defense to helping employers hire former offenders and victim representation. Additionally, starting in about 2018, the federal judiciary appointed me to manage nearly 400 Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys statewide. I am now the presumptive Pima County Attorney elect, with no opponent in the general election. Although I never planned to run for political office, I saw this opportunity as a means to help the community find solutions on a broader level rather than by continuing to approach my legal career one case at a time."
How have enduring UA Law connections influenced you?
"I have especially kept in touch with friends and faculty mentors. I deeply believe in the value of mentorship. One example is Professor Jack Chin, my former criminal law professor, who recently took a sabbatical to help me establish the first fraud unit in 20 years at the Pima County Attorney's Office. Together, we will focus on fraud and consumer protection."
What will be your main focus in the next year?
"My priority begins by taking a close look at the office's $37 million annual budget with a twofold aim of enhancing our transparency and community focus. One specific goal is to partner with the public and behavioral health realm to stop felonizing drug addiction and mental illness. I expect that to free up resources and time to address fraud and consumer protection, and to go after real threats and harm to our community."
What would you tell younger professionals and recent Arizona Law graduates about how to start off on the right foot early in your career?
"I'd encourage younger lawyers to get involved. The more real-world or community-based experience you can find time for, the better your career will be. You help the community, make connections, and identify what works and doesn't work for you. That also allows you to share your gifts with the community. Going back to 2003, I can see the patterns of my career all the way through to the present day: my friendships, mentorships, and professional connections, that played out through weekly tutoring with Lawyers for Literacy.
Among friends, the lawyers who are happiest are involved in the community. The lawyers who are isolated and aren't participating aren't as fulfilled. You never know what life will bring. The more involved you are, the more doors will open just at the moments when you need them most."
Thank you, Laura, and thank you, Dillon!