Q&A with Kelsey McGregor (JD 2015)

USC Gould School of Law • September 27, 2022
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Kelsey McGregor, counsel at WilmerHale with a practice in investigations and regulatory advising, has been seconded for six months as a senior supervising attorney to USC Gould School of Law’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) as part of WilmerHale’s Pickering Fellowship. 

Why did you apply for the Pickering Fellowship?

Kelsey McGregor is a senior supervising attorney for USC Gould’s International Human Rights Clinic thanks to WilmerHale’s Pickering Fellowship.

I first learned about the Pickering Fellowship when I interviewed with WilmerHale during OCI as a USC Gould student. The fellowship is named for one of the firm’s founding partners, John Pickering, and gives one firm lawyer each year the opportunity to spend six months working at a public interest organization. As a student, I interpreted the fellowship as a sign of what the firm’s culture might be like, and knew I would apply if given the chance!  Almost 10 years later, I have been grateful to experience firsthand WilmerHale’s sincere commitment to pro bono work.

I loved my time in the IHRC as a student and hoped I would have the chance to support the clinic’s work again.  It has been my privilege to represent the clinic pro bono for the last few years, and the fellowship was an opportunity to expand that meaningful representation and dedicate myself for six months to addressing the human rights issues that first inspired me to go to law school.

What kind of work did you do as a student at the IHRC?

I worked in the Clinic for my 2L and 3L years, and had the opportunity to write bench memos for the appeals chambers of two international criminal tribunals: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon and International Criminal Court. I also represented several survivors of trafficking, and participated in a summit at Capitol Hill with Jewish World Watch, advocating for transitional justice in Sudan and the DRC. With the support of [clinic Founding Director and Professor] Hannah Garry I also spent my last law school semester as a full-time extern in the Human Rights & Special Prosecutions Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, and then working in The Hague as a law clerk to Appeals Chamber Judge Fausto Pocar at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. My grandmother immigrated from The Hague in the wake of World War II, so it was also special to be there with family and learn more about my roots.

What is your role as a senior supervising attorney?

I am working closely with Visiting Clinical Assistant Professor Henna Pithia (JD 2015) and Professor Hannah Garry to supervise the clinic’s work streams on Fair Trial Rights and International Criminal Justice. For the International Criminal Justice work stream, we are working with a great student team to advocate for atrocity prevention and accountability in several genocide and pre-genocidal situations.  For our Fair Trial Rights work stream, we have a talented student team working with our partner TrialWatch to monitor trials in Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, and Malawi. For example, this semester, we have the opportunity to prepare and publish a report assessing the trial of a Kyrgyz human rights defender, along with some other exciting advocacy and investigative work. It’s marvelous to be working with the students, and to be collaborating with Henna, a friend and advocate I’ve admired since we were in law school together, and Hannah, my most influential law school teacher and a beloved mentor and friend.

Why is pro bono work important to you?

There are so many inequities in the American justice system and throughout the world. It’s a privilege and a responsibility for attorneys to dedicate our skills to pro bono work that endeavors to expose and repair those injustices. At WilmerHale I work with so many talented and caring lawyers with storied careers in public service and who maintain exceptional pro bono practices. When I was a student, I had the impression that I could either care about public service or give that up in pursuit of other priorities. But, there are so many attorneys who care about public service that spend time in other fields; I think we do ourselves and our communities a disservice if we succumb to such zero-sum thinking.  With some effort and balancing [of priorities], I believe that you can maintain a sincere commitment to public service even while pursuing a variety of career trajectories. For my part, it’s hard to predict what each chapter of my career might bring, but l will strive to make pro bono work a clear thread throughout my career.

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