Ursula Furi-Perry of Haverhill addresses her classmates during the Massachusetts School of Law Commencement at Andover High School Friday night. Furi-Perry, a Hungarian immigrant, came to the United States at the age of 12 and graduated from MSL last week at the top of her class.

Ursula Furi-Perry knew she had a good grade point average at Massachusetts School of Law, but had no idea just how well she was doing until the school asked her to speak at the commencement ceremony.

A resident of Haverhill for the past two years, Furi-Perry, 27, graduated last Friday at the top of her class with magna cum laude honors and a GPA of 3.48. But the juris doctor degree is just the latest addition to a laundry list of accomplishments for the married mother of almost three — she is expecting her third child in September.

“For some of us, the juris doctor degree represents a life-long dream; for most of us, it represents a new career, and for each one of us, it represents the chance and ability to make our individual and collective marks on the legal profession,” she told the Class of 2007. “Some of the praise (for this) must go to the spouses, kids, family and friends who stood by us through the years, getting intimately acquainted with our answering machines as we feverishly studied the law.”

Furi-Perry, an immigrant from Hungary, started learning English when she moved to California with her family at the age of 12.

“Growing up in Hungary, when someone would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I undoubtedly answered ‘lawyer,’ and much of the time, the response would undoubtedly be ‘but you’re a girl!” Furi-Perry said. “Through its efforts at increasing diversity, teaching through practice, and providing extremely flexible schedules, MSL provides an education and a chance, precisely for those who have been traditionally left out of the field.”

Furi-Perry is not just your average student.

A published writer, collegiate teacher and now a law professional, she is always keeping busy. She teaches paralegal courses at Northern Essex Community College and Bridgewater State College, has published nearly 300 nonfiction articles in national and regional publications and is the author of “50 Legal Careers for Non-Attorneys,” a book to be released in early 2008 and published by the American Bar Association.

She is quick to point out that although she wears many hats professionally, none are as important as her roles of mother and wife.

She is mother of two sons ages 1 and 4, and is expecting a third son in September. She is married to Thomas Perry. Her family was the impetus behind her departure from New England School of Law in Boston in favor of a shorter commute and more flexible schedule at the Andover campus.

“I transferred to MSL after having my first son because of its convenience, flexible schedules and tuition,” she said. “Having to care for a family meant I had to be careful about the educational opportunities I chose, because I had to be there for my family first.”

The only thing missing from Friday’s celebratory festivities was the presence of her mother, Rose Furi, who passed away last October.

While in Hungary, Furi-Perry wanted to be either a lawyer or waitress. Though she is not sure what inspired her to seek a career in law, she knows her aspiration to become a waitress came from her mother. Furi-Perry spent hours in a Budapest restaurant where her mother worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week. “I would go to the restaurant and help out and do my homework at the bar,” Furi-Perry said.

Her mother never got her high school diploma and regretted it. Furi wasn’t about to allow the same thing to happen to her daughter. Despite her lack of education, Furi was an entrepreneur who embodied the American dream. Once she moved to California, she opened a small restaurant in posh Palm Springs in 1992.

“Most of us were lucky to have at least one special person whose support, encouragement and gentle pushes helped us face one exam after another. For me, that was my mother,” Furi-Perry said to the crowd. “She was a woman without a high school diploma who believed tremendously in the value of my education, and who passed away just before she could see me complete it. She was a great inspiration.”

Furi-Perry is not sure what she will do with the her juris doctor degree.

“Writing and teaching are my true passions,” she said. “To be honest, I would be happy teaching and writing, even if I never practiced for a day. The key for me is the opportunity to study the law and explore legal topics; being able to convey it to others is just an added bonus.

“Sharing the knowledge and influencing my students’ careers feels good; I help them find career options they never even thought of before,” she continued. “It’s so rewarding when I get that e-mail back from a student where they tell me they got a job. It is a big part of me and the reason why I am writing the book.”

Furi-Perry plans to take the bar exam in July.

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