Luz Herrera was hired by Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2008, in part, because she's great at starting things.
She was the first member of her family to go to college (and, subsequently, law school).
She started her own law practice.
And she co-founded Community Lawyers Inc., a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that offers affordable legal services to low- and moderate-income individuals.
So the administrators at TJSL specifically brought on Herrera to start a transactional clinic at the school, and she hasn't disappointed.
Soon after joining the TJSL faculty, Herrera began developing a clinical program and, in 2012, the school launched the Small Business Law Center.
"Having been a solo practitioner, I know there's not a lot of assistance for those hanging up their own shingle," Herrera said. "I wanted to help bridge that gap.
"San Diego is a small-business city."
The clinic has taken off.
Within 13 months of opening, the Small Business Law Center had four programs running under it -- the Art and Entertainment Law Project, the Community Economic Development Clinic, the Patent Clinic and the Trademark Clinic.
TJSL is the only law school in California to have both a patent clinic and a trademark clinic certified by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
"It's grown very quickly," Herrera said.
Herrera has always focused on helping out at the community level, especially those who are underserved.
The idea for Community Lawyers Inc. arose out of what she experienced during her eight-year civil law practice in Compton.
"I saw so many people who didn't have the money to pay me to do the work, and I was already charging (low rates)," she said. "They weren't able to get free services because groups like Legal Aid Society were maxed out; they were so underfunded."
She then used her experiences as a small-business owner and a participant in legal clinics while at Harvard Law School to shape TJSL's Small Business Law Center. It is designed to provide legal assistance to entrepreneurs, artists, inventors and nonprofit organizations that do not have the financial means to hire a lawyer.
The clinic also is helpful in training future advocates.
"We (legal educators) have to produce ethical and competent lawyers," Herrera said. "The law is about the clients, not lawyers. We're just instruments for folks."
Herrera grew up in Whittier, just outside Los Angeles, before attending Stanford University. She then graduated from Harvard Law School.
She was recognized as an “Emerging Scholar” by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education in 2013, and was inducted into the College of Law Practice Management in Washington, D.C., in 2012.
And the TJSL Student Bar Association awarded Herrera with the Lewis and Clark Award for Innovation and Dedication.
"Even though it was challenging to become a lawyer, it's been more challenging to stay a lawyer and do it while being true to myself," she said.
Herrera said the key to success has been careful preparation, not being afraid to push limits and learning from others.
"If I listened to people every time they said I couldn't do something, I don’t think I would have gone to college," she said. "And not being afraid of failing is always a huge thing. We get so afraid of failing that we become paralyzed to not try things."
1155 Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
July 30, 2012 -- Julie Greenberg, a law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and a 2012 Top Attorney, talks about the current topic of gender testing in sports.
Feb. 6, 2012 -- Thomas Jefferson School of Law Dean and Transcript 2012 Top Influential Rudy Hasl, talks about the school's new downtown campus and the many benefits it has brought.
Jan. 17, 2011 -- Thomas Jefferson School of Law officially opened its new $90 million downtown campus with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Reporter Carlos Rico tours the new facility.
March 24, 2009 -- The future site of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in the East Village has yielded a “treasure trove” of prehistoric fossil evidence during the past month.