First-generation ASU Law student dreams of serving the community through law
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.
Fernando Guillen, a first-generation law student from Las Cruces, New Mexico, graduated this week with a Juris Doctorate and a certificate in trial advocacy from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. He recently was recognized with a Dean’s Award for academic performance and outstanding character and was also given the Paul Holloway Trial Advocacy Award, which recognizes an outstanding ASU Law student who completed an Advocacy Fellow Program.
While at ASU Law, he was awarded several scholarships that helped him pursue a legal-sector career, including the Kevin Kane Memorial Book Scholarship, Valdemar Cordova Scholarship, Jennings Strouss & Salmon Book Scholarship and Gammage & Burnham Book Scholarship, among many others.
This past year, he also served as president of the Chicano/Latino Law Students’ Association at ASU, an organization that was also recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association as Law Student Organization of the Year. Guillen was also selected as the 2020 Justice Michael D. Ryan Scholar by the Maricopa County Bar Foundation in recognition of his dream to serve the community through law.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study law?
Answer: I realized I wanted to study law when I was a child. When I was around 8 years old, my parents adopted two of my cousins from Mexico. Unfortunately, they were not able to become citizens in the process because of their age. As a result, they were not able to become citizens until they married. I wondered why the laws were written in that way and became really interested in policy and the legislative process. During undergrad I majored in philosophy and focused on the philosophy of law and ethics. I quickly learned that what is just is not always lawful, and what is lawful is not always just. This reinforced my desire to study law.
Q: Why did you choose ASU Law?
A: I chose ASU Law because of what it means to be an ASU alumnus in the Southwest. I moved here from New Mexico, and ASU Law is the best school closest to home. It was easy to adapt to the weather here, and I have enjoyed everything that Phoenix has to offer.
Q: What has your experience at ASU Law been like?
A: My experience at ASU Law has been great. All of my classes were great, and the staff and faculty were amazing. I especially enjoyed being a part of the Chicano/Latino Law Students' Association all three years and participating in student events like Barristers Ball and the Fajita Cook-Off. The highlight of my time was probably flying to New York as president of CLLSA to receive the award for 2019 Law Student Organization of the Year from the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in law school?
A: Remember to dedicate yourself and persevere. There is nothing you cannot accomplish with rational planning, willpower and motivation.
Q: What motivates or inspires you?
A: I try to be the best version of myself not only for me, but also my family. My two sons inspire and motivate me every day.
Q: For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
A: I am especially grateful for my family. My parents and sisters always support me. My girlfriend is also a key part of my support system. I am very grateful for them and for all the friends I made at ASU Law along the way. I moved here from out of state and did not have any family or friends in Arizona. The ASU Law community made me feel right at home.