Student Spotlight – Shelby Ehrmann

A photo of Shelby Ehrmann

3L Shelby Ehrmann

Shelby Ehrmann always knew she wanted to go to law school.

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer,” Ehrmann said. “When you’re little everyone’s like ‘I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a veterinarian,’ I always wanted to be a lawyer.”

Ehrmann graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s in Political Science and four years of Reserve Officer’s Training Corps experience under her belt. She originally commissioned into the military hoping to join the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG.

But life threw her a curveball. She could not secure one of the two extremely selective spots and instead trained as an engineering officer in the Army. After a six-month basic training course, she learned a plethora of engineering skills including horizontal, vertical and combat operations.

As the end of her seven-year contract drew closer, Ehrmann knew it was time to pursue her dream of going to law school. She was honorably discharged from the military and began to apply.

She first began considering Mizzou because of its proximity to her then-fiance, who was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood near Rolla, Missouri, and her parent’s new home in Springfield, Missouri.

She was also drawn to the Veterans Clinic. Her friends in the military were familiar with its work, which allows law students, under the supervision of experienced attorneys, to assist veterans with discharge upgrades and Veterans Administration benefits completely free of charge.a photo of shelby ehrmann in army fatigues

“I’m a disabled veteran myself, and I have a lot of friends that have been through that process. It’s a game, getting disability compensation. What are the right words? Are you meeting the correct charting?” said Ehrmann. “People who had been deployed multiple times, who had numerous injuries, were getting denied everything.”

“Coming here, it was like, I was able to work towards a needed goal. We make sure that veterans get what they’re due. That’s what I really appreciated.”

After starting at Mizzou, Ehrmann began pursuing a career in criminal justice. She completed externships at the public defenders’ offices in Fulton and Columbia. However, after her first semester with the Veterans Clinic last spring, Ehrmann realized that veterans law was her true passion.

“You’re actually helping a client, and they’re so grateful,” said Ehrmann. “You feel like you’re actually making a difference.”

After her exceptional performance in the Clinic last spring, Angela Drake, professor and Veterans Clinic Director, approached her about becoming a teaching assistant for the Clinic. Now, Ehrmann not only works with clients one-on-one but supervises other students working in the Clinic.

“In helping students or working with clients, you’re learning veterans law at the same time,” said Ehrmann. “I’m doing veterans law right now— so when I step into a full-time position, there’s not that learning curve. That’s what I love about it.”

In her last year at Mizzou, Ehrmann hopes to continue supporting veterans through the Clinic before entering the legal field. Though her journey to law school has been a wild ride, Ehrmann has a lot of hope for the future and looks forward to giving back to veterans like herself.