Making a Positive Impact Together
June 18, 2024 - MoFo Women, MoFo Diversity

Faces of MoFo: Chelsea Kehrer

Faces of MoFo: Chelsea Kehrer

Editors’ Note: Read about Chelsea Kehrer, a Palo Alto associate in the firm’s Litigation Department, in the latest installment of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series.

I have never shied away from advocating for what I believe in. On my first day of high school, I confidently marched down to the principal’s office and pitched the idea that I should be allowed to homeschool myself. I came prepared with a bullet point list on the advantages it would give me—mostly centered around finishing high school one year early—and a prepared rebuttal argument to any anticipated disadvantage that he may suggest. To my surprise, Mr. Yoho did not back me up later when I presented the homeschooling option to my parents. 

As I matured, my advocacy became stronger, more targeted, and largely shaped by the experiences of folks in rural West Virginia. Growing up in Sistersville, West Virginia (a town with one stop light, no major grocery stores, and a lot of natural resource extraction), during a time when the opioid epidemic was at its peak, gave me a unique perspective on criminality, the law, and the need for more social support systems. As a teenager, I first learned about housing instability on a visit to the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Before this visit, I had never seen anyone sleeping on the street, or being criminalized for doing so. I loudly protested until my dad agreed to buy them some food from a nearby McDonalds, and I spent the rest of my teenage years imploring my family and friends (and anyone else who would listen) to carry spare snacks, water bottles, and some cash to hand out when they went into the city.

In college, I gave a three-part presentation to a class of petroleum engineering students on climate change and the effects of natural resource extraction on the land and the people who live on it. In law school, I presented research conducted by myself and other members of the Global Human Rights Clinic on police use of force policies and practices that violate international law at the UN-mandated International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States. Nowadays, I volunteer at harm reduction organizations in the city and try to find ways to advocate for folks struggling with substance abuse.

MoFo was a natural fit for me after law school because of the firm’s commitment to pro bono work, particularly for causes that I believe in. The mentorship and hands-on experience that I’ve received since I started have only confirmed what I already knew. On one of my first days at the firm, I was staffed on a pro bono case about students who did not have equal access to education during the COVID-19 pandemic (the Cayla J. case). It was important to me that I provide the most rigorous legal advocacy for these students that I could. I was surprised that a law firm would not only allow, but fully support, me in spending so much time on a pro bono matter. But MoFo did, and all of the partners and other associates on the team gave the case as much care and time as any other. I was quickly given the opportunity to draft and argue motions, lead meet and confer calls, take depositions, and manage the day-to-day case. Almost every step of the process—from discovery to trial preparations—was entirely new to me, and so many times I felt in over my head. But there was always someone with the experience and know-how that I could turn to for advice or help. I will never forget how supported I felt, even in times of uncertainty. And I now feel more confident in the written and oral advocacy skills that I bring to my other cases.

In my free time, you can find me making homemade veggie stock, taking photos of my three cats (Luna, Huey, and Shallot), hiking with my partner Maura, plotting to end the single-use plastic industry, and trying to get someone (anyone) to listen to me talk about food waste.