Show Us Your Summer: Marie DeFer & Katie Burke

July 17, 2014



We invited SLU LAW students with summer internships to share their experiences with us throughout the summer as part of a blog series called "Show Us Your Summer." This week, we hear from rising 3L Marie DeFer and rising 2L Katie Burke.

Marie DeFer – Rising 3L

Before applying to law school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in health law because of the health law exposure I gained through college internships and from working full-time for the Massachusetts Attorney General. I enrolled at SLU LAW because of our top-ranked health law program, including outstanding, nationally-recognized health law faculty. As a non-St. Louis native and a health care access advocate, I hoped to spend my 3L summer immersed in all things health law at the law and policy epicenter – Washington, D.C. Applying for internships directly, networking, and bouncing ideas off my health law professors paid off – I am spending my summer as a legal intern at the National Health Law Program in Washington, D.C.

The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) is a public interest law firm that works to advance access to quality health care and protect the legal rights of low-income and underserved people through policy, impact litigation, and technical support. NHeLP has offices in Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Los Angeles, but works throughout the country on state and national issues. I am very grateful to spend my summer at NHeLP as it is a wonderful opportunity to learn about current health care policy and litigation issues, specifically related to the Affordable Care Act’s implementation and ensuring Medicaid access across the nation.  

At NHeLP, I directly apply what I learned in class to the real world. In my first week of work, I discovered the hypothetical question on Professor Robert Gatter’s Administrative Law exam is one of NHeLP’s areas of interest, Medicaid § 1115 waivers. Other health law courses, such as Health Law with Professor Sidney Watson and Health Care Financing and Business Planning with Professor Tim Greaney, provided me with a foundation to hit the ground running at NHeLP. This summer I have attended numerous coalition meetings, calls with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, briefings with Congressional staff, hearings and a press conference with U.S. Senators and Representatives, and various in-person and webinar trainings. My current assignments include a technical assistance project involving children’s dental health access and a 50-state survey on Medicaid consent processes. I also have many writing and publishing opportunities, including drafting a letter of support for federal legislation and factsheets on private health insurance available through marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act. Further, I cite-checked a brief NHeLP filed with the 8th Circuit, which put my law journal training to use.

Despite the cutting edge and diverse health law work at NHeLP, my favorite aspect of my summer is working with all of the incredibly intelligent, driven and passionate health law attorneys. Each attorney has a different narrative that led them to health law and within their own areas of expertise. It is extremely inspiring to work side-by-side with attorneys pursuing public interest careers that place them at the frontlines of health policy and litigation issues. One affirmation of NHeLP’s great work is Justice Ginsburg’s citation to NHeLP’s amicus brief in her Burwell v. Hobby Lobby dissent. With six legal interns among NHeLP’s offices, we have weekly check-ins, trainings on NHeLP’s priority areas, and professional development discussions. NHeLP treats interns as regular staff by assigning substantive work and encouraging us to participate in meetings.

Aside from NHeLP’s exciting work, I love living in Washington, D.C. So far this summer I heard Hillary Clinton lecture on her current book, toured the Supreme Court, talked with one of Justice Thomas’s law clerks, attended a reading with David Sedaris, went to a Washington Nationals baseball game and kayaked on the Potomac River. D.C. is a fun city rich with history and culture, and full of young, energetic professionals transplanted from all over the world. Also, with NHeLP’s D.C. office located three blocks from the White House, I constantly look out for President Obama strolling around town.

While it’s hard to believe my summer at NHeLP is halfway over, I look forward to what the next month will offer. Every week I gain exposure to a new development in health law policy and/or litigation occurring at the state or national level. I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Katie Burke — Rising 2L

I recently completed my first year at SLU LAW, and I am currently working as a summer intern for the Chief Counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security in Kansas City, Mo.

Prior to entering law school, I worked as a legal assistant for an immigration attorney at a non-profit organization in St. Louis. The organization provided legal, medical and case management services exclusively to individuals who had survived state-sanctioned torture and war trauma in their countries of origin. After spending nearly two years working with clients who had survived unimaginable atrocities and helping them to navigate an often confusing and complex immigration system, I entered law school intent on pursuing a career in an immigration-related field.

Although I had worked in the private immigration advocacy sector for quite some time, I was interested in spending the summer working for ICE and seeing immigration law from a different perspective. As part of the internship program at ICE, my supervisors have taken great care to ensure that interns have the opportunity to work on a wide-range of projects tailored to meet their individual interests. For example, over the past several weeks, I have been able work on briefs and complete research projects on issues pertaining to war crimes, human rights abuses and terrorism. 

In addition, since Immigration Court is a federal administrative court and law students do not have to be Rule 13 certified, my supervisors have structured the ICE internship program to ensure that interns are prepared to present a case at a final merits hearing. In this manner, I began the summer by observing the supervising attorneys present cases at the master calendar and final merits hearings, drafted briefs and motions on a variety of issues to be filed with the Immigration Court, and I will be presenting a case at the end of this week under the supervision of an experienced ICE attorney.     

Having the opportunity to work on cases with such a unique assortment of issues and even present my own case under supervision are not experiences that I would have been able to have at most firms or non-profit organizations. I am profoundly grateful to all of the attorneys at ICE for making this such an enjoyable internship experience, and I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer will bring! 

Show Us Your Summer


Week 1: Priya Gandhi 

Week 2: Bri Baldwin and Eric Albritton

Week 3: Jeanne Marie Evans

Week 4: Lauren Rouse and Jenna Hueneger

Week 5: Andrew Bouquet

Week 6: Marie DeFer and Katie Burke

Week 7: Claire Wiltse and Keri Smith

Week 8: Robert Grimmett-Norris and Lauren Rodriguez


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