Making a Positive Impact Together
August 17, 2022 - MoFo Life, MoFo Pro Bono

Serving Pro Bono Clients and Engaging with Important Social Causes – Holly Petersen


When selecting firms to apply to for the summer, my principal consideration was a firm’s commitment to its pro bono practice. MoFo stood out in that regard—both on paper and while speaking with different attorneys during the interview process. I was glad to find this commitment echoed throughout my experience in MoFo’s summer program. Even as a summer associate, I found a wealth of opportunities to serve pro bono clients and engage with important social causes.

One pro bono assignment I had the opportunity to work on was a research project for FreeFrom, a national organization whose mission is to dismantle the nexus between intimate partner violence and financial insecurity. Working with the organization, I learned that the number one obstacle to a survivor’s long-term safety is financial insecurity (the CDC estimates that the lifetime cost per female survivor in the United States is $103,767). FreeFrom aims to create pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors of intimate partner violence, in part through promoting the passage of policies across the United States that support survivors’ financial security.

During my summer with MoFo, I helped by researching state-level policies for FreeFrom’s National Survivor Financial Security Policy Map and Scorecard, an interactive online map that both outlines each state’s existing laws impacting a survivor’s ability to build and maintain financial security and provides state-specific policy recommendations.

Through this work, I was able to leverage the legal research skills I’d developed in law school to assess existing state policies in various areas, such as reproductive justice, support for immigrant and undocumented survivors, and rental protections for survivors. It was a great experience—not only because I got to use my skill set to support an organization whose work I truly believe in, but also because I was supported and guided by passionate MoFo lawyers while doing so.

In addition to the research project for FreeFrom, I participated in two Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) clinics, where I helped DACA recipients complete and file their applications to renew their protection. I also had the opportunity to work with my partner mentor, Jennifer Taylor, on a pro bono trademark matter for a scholarship fund aimed at advancing equity and diversity within the legal profession—I even got to help file the response we drafted with the Patent and Trademark Office.

My summer at MoFo was full of experiences I will not forget—like getting absolutely soaked as waves splashed onto the catamaran that took us around the San Francisco Bay; finding thoughtful and inspiring mentors in Lara McDonough (my associate mentor), Julie Nicholson (my work coordinator), and Jennifer Taylor (my partner mentor); and working every day in an office where I could look out the window and see a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge.

But the experience that sticks most was the opportunity to engage with important pro bono work that felt meaningful to me. That is the experience that makes me most excited to return to MoFo and to begin my career as a lawyer.