Program on Church, State & Society 2019 fellows share summer experiences

Author: Jonathan Hannah


Four Notre Dame Law students gained valuable exposure this summer in the area of religious-institutions practice. Sponsored by the Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, each summer fellow assisted a religiously affiliated organization or law firm that serves such organizations.

David Spicer worked as a law and policy intern for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

"Throughout the course of my internship, I collaborated with a number of experienced attorneys to promote the Church's teachings on migration, human dignity, and the family, from revising educational resources to drafting language for regulatory comments and letters sent to congressional leaders," Spicer said. "Not only did I feel like I was doing meaningful work, but I also gained valuable, real-world legal experience. All the while, I had to grapple with the unique challenges that exist at the intersection of church and state." 

Judah Maxwell worked as a legal intern for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City under the Chancellor, Michael Scaperlanda.

“I was able to perform legal work in diverse areas of the law, from corporate and labor law, to liability and property management, the latter of which is an interest of mine going forward. While I will use much of what I learned this summer going forward, the thing that will perhaps benefit me the most was gaining an insider perspective on the governance of a large entity like the Archdiocese; especially how people inside the organization must navigate and employ various aspects of the law to help accomplish their objectives,” Maxwell said.

Seth Sanders worked for Wagenmaker & Oberly in Chicago. The firm provides legal counsel to nonprofit organizations across the nation. His primary role was to assist in researching and creating initial drafts of work products. Some of these products included bylaws, IRS Form 1023s (501(c)(3) Application Form), and nonprofit risk management strategies.

“I saw my summer as an opportunity to learn more about the technical side of being a religious institution. These organizations face unique challenges in areas such as communicating with the IRS, obtaining real estate tax exemption, and effectively operating as a corporation,” Sanders said. “Wagenmaker & Oberly provided the chance to get a broad understanding in all of these matters. My growth over this summer is reflected in my understanding of nonprofit regulation, as well as a practical understanding of how to integrate into a law firm culture.”

Sofia Skok worked as an intern in the Office of Legal Services of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“As a Church, State & Society fellow, I had the opportunity to work on substantive issues in a variety of legal practice areas. The team of attorneys at the Archdiocese of Chicago took time to explain how my assignments fit into broader legal and organizational contexts,” Skok said. “Through this feedback, I further shaped my practice area interests and learned about the unique legal considerations related to religious organizations.”

The fellowship program is one of the many ways the Program on Church, State & Society seeks to educate young lawyers about the relationship between law and religion. The fellowships allow students to experience a variety of career options that combine law and religion and involve legal services to religious institutions of all types.