When you walk into attorney Jose Perez’s office, you’ll find promotional signs, statues, the Venezuelan flag, and you’ll also find the man behind the law firms in Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester.

Perez’s journey to the office is not like many others. His spans across countries and decades, but it all started in Central New York.

What You Need To Know

  • Jose Perez's journey to his law firm is not like many others

  • He was born in the U.S., moved to Venezuela, and came back to the U.S. with a law degree

  • He says many people doubted him, but now he's encouraging young people to follow their dreams

"I was born here, and was here for about a year before moving back to Venezuela, where I’m basically from," said Perez.

Perez was raised in Venezuela, where he earned his law degree and practiced for four years. Then he returned to Ithaca in 2002. But when he looked for a job, no one would accept him.

"I didn’t have a degree from here, so I was not able to be a part of your team; I even offered volunteering," he said.

So with a law degree and years of experience under his belt, he filled his days with English classes and pizza deliveries to make ends meet until he was accepted to Syracuse University, where he graduated cum laude.

Now, Perez keeps reminders in his office of where he’s been and the future he wants to create: an eagle, representing freedom; a representation of blind justice; and the Statue of Liberty, a beacon of freedom and the American dream.

"I was on that side of the desk; now I’m on [this] side of the desk, and I need to help people. I can’t let their American dream be shattered," Perez said.

Perez puts an emphasis on mentoring students and has won many awards for his volunteer work, saying he’s fighting for every person to have a chance at justice, no matter what they look like, and paying it forward with equality and justice at the forefront.