Portrait of CSR Intern Gillian Gurley

Aug 12, 2009

Tulane University Law School student Gillian Gurley has worked on some important issues affecting mariners these last seven weeks. From preventative healthcare for seafarers (particularly with fears of swine flu) to shore leave and piracy, she has compiled research and joined discussions as the 16th intern for the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) Center for Seafarers’ Rights.

SCI’s internship program provides hands-on learning opportunities for law students from two American universities: Tulane University Law School and Charleston School of Law. SCI selects students for a summer at the Institute’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, the world’s only full-time, free legal aid program for merchant mariners. Interns spend eight weeks learning and assisting with the work of the Center’s attorneys.

“The internship has helped bring a lot of my academic interests into focus,” said Gurley in a July interview. After completing her first year of law school in the spring of 2009 and studying in Greece earlier this summer, Gurley came to SCI.

When asked why she applied for SCI’s internship program, she replied that SCI and the Center for Seafarers’ Rights provide an exceptional opportunity. “This was really the perfect marriage of a number of my interests,” said Gurley, “I'm studying maritime law at Tulane, but I want to do public interest work, too. There aren't a lot of places where those two interests meet, but SCI and the CSR provide an opportunity to deal in both.”

Gurley grew up in Lawrence, KS, and attended undergraduate school at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. She lived in Chicago for two years before starting at Tulane with a focus on maritime law. She came to Tulane with an environmental background but said that she wished to have a broader legal base, and Gurley has always loved “any and all things having to do with the sea.”

Gurley’s experience at the Institute has provided her with what she characterizes as a “rewarding experience,” which she will carry into her studies and eventual practice. “I hope the intern’s work is as valuable to CSR as it is to the intern.”

Deborah G. Blanchard, Staff Attorney at SCI’s Center for Seafarers’ Rights, says that she is impressed with Gurley’s intellect. She says, “Gillian is not afraid to ask questions and to offer valuable insights on whatever issue we’re working on. She’s been a great asset to CSR and a pleasure to work with this summer.”

Gurley’s advice to future generations of Center for Seafarers’ Rights interns: ask lots of questions. Gurley drew attention to SCI’s heritage, encouraging becoming familiar with the history of SCI, and noted the imminent practitioners in the field of maritime law who maintain relationships with SCI. “It is clear,” she said, “that the organization is important to practicing maritime lawyers all over the country and the world.”