Over 6,000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean separate the two places that third-year law student, Gada Al Herz calls home. Born in New York, Al Herz split her childhood between Cedar Rapids and South Lebanon.
“I moved to Lebanon when I was around 12 years old and came back to Cedar Rapids when I was around 16.” She knew what life was like outside of the Hawkeye state, and that greatly affected her perspective throughout the rest of high school—she wanted to experience it again someday.
“It was a big adjustment coming back.” The differences between the education and legal systems in the United States and Lebanon were eye-opening, even to a teenager. After settling back into Iowa, she decided to stay a bit longer. Al Herz attended the University of Iowa for undergrad, where she studied philosophy and ethics & public policy.
Initially declaring a pre-medicine major, Al Herz quickly learned that her passions and interests laid elsewhere. “I had always really loved writing, reading, politics, policy, ethics, etc. So, I figured out my first year of undergrad that I definitely wanted to be a lawyer, even though I didn't really know exactly what being a lawyer meant.”
After she set her heart on attending law school, she was injured in a severe car accident during her junior year of undergrad and suffered some intense injuries. Although unsure whether she would be able to continue in her education, she persevered. The real possibility of her dream being snatched from her hands put a lot into perspective later down the line, which built upon the mindset she developed through her previous international experiences.
Family offers an additional perspective check for Al Herz. “My mom actually came to the United States with the dream of becoming a lawyer. She grew up in an impoverished family with around 20 siblings. She used to study by candlelight at night and really fought for her education—she was the first and one of only three of her siblings to graduate high school.”
As the only person in her immediate family to receive a bachelor’s degree, Al Herz reflects on her own education as she nears graduation. “It's a really nice thing to look back in hindsight and think that even though my mom didn't end up getting the chance to follow her dreams, she fought hard for me to have that chance, and now, here it is happening.”
For her 1L summer, she interned with Judge C.J. Williams in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The following year Al Herz was a summer associate at Allen and Overy LLP and will be returning to its Washington D.C. office after graduation in spring 2022. With longtime hopes of doing international work, she will be fulfilling those goals through a practice focused on international white-collar crime.
Al Herz feels that Iowa has prepared her for a vast range of career possibilities. “I'm prepared for an international career. But I also feel like if I go out into the world and realize that I miss Iowa, I am also aware of the rural practices. I’m prepared for a big law career, while at the same time I feel like I’m prepared to work at a small practice in Iowa or a public organization.”
Al Herz has developed lifelong friendships during her time at the University of Iowa. Many of these were established through her extensive involvement in law school organizations, such as the Iowa Student Bar Association and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. As much as she cherishes her time at the University, she is ecstatic about taking a step outside the state.
“Ever since I came back from Lebanon, I wanted to explore the world outside Iowa.” Now, she is ready to do just that. “Iowa truly is a law school that can get you anywhere.”