Tennessee Justice Center

by justineh

PICS Organization Name
Tennessee Justice Center

Website
http://tnjustice.org

City/State
Nashville, Tennessee

Weekly Stipend
$450

Public Transportation
Yes

Housing Provided
No

Former Interns
Preston Johnston '21, Jahdziah St. Julien '18

Organization Description
The Tennessee Justice Center is a private, non-profit public interest law firm that represents low-income families throughout Tennessee. Our mission is to advocate on behalf of poor Tennesseans:

  • in areas of public policy having the greatest impact on their health and welfare;
  • by means which afford clients opportunities to make their own voices heard; and
  • in ways which emphasize collaboration across lines of race, class and generation. 

Our clients inspire and drive the work that we do. TJC also supports the work of others engaged in similar advocacy efforts, beyond state boundaries, on behalf of the poor.

TJC was founded in 1996 to provide free legal assistance in policy-related cases, such as class actions, which federally funded Legal Aid programs were no longer allowed to handle. In deciding which cases to accept, priority is given to those cases in which successful intervention on behalf of the client would also bring benefits to large numbers of poor people statewide. Priority is also given to legal matters affecting the necessities of life, primarily public assistance and access to health care. TJC provides technical assistance to several advocacy coalitions and prides itself on its successful collaborations with other advocates and client groups.

TJC operates out of an office in Nashville, the state capital, with a staff of thirteen, including five attorneys plus client advocates, communications workers, and support staff. In addition to class action litigation, the organization engages in administrative advocacy with government agencies, represents clients’ interests before the state legislature and develops and disseminates materials informing client communities of their legal rights and responsibilities.

Business Tennessee magazine described TJC as having directly affected the lives of more Tennesseans than any other non-profit in the state. TJC’s work on welfare reform has led to several creative policy initiatives that have been duplicated by other states. Families USA Foundation recognized TJC’s legal work regarding Medicaid managed care by giving TJC its national Health Advocate of the Year Award. TJC’s advocacy has earned numerous awards from state organizations, as well as the American Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association. 

Most of the organization’s resources are currently devoted to advocacy relating to the protection of people enrolled in the state’s Medicaid managed care program, known as TennCare. TJC represents plaintiffs in several ongoing class actions involving: 

  • Medicaid applicants’ right to a timely determination of their eligibility status
  • Managed care appeal rights for denied healthcare services
  • Nursing home resident protections 

TJC has sponsored Princeton interns for several years and has always found the experience rewarding. PICS interns bring energy, creativity, and new perspective to the work we do each day. We have found that interns allow us to initiate and complete outreach and research projects that would not have happened otherwise.  PICS Interns also have the opportunity to assist directly with case work, allowing our office to enhance our ability and capacity to help individuals and families

Internship Description
While the particular case or project on which the intern will work will depend upon next summer’s circumstances, the internship will likely involve the direct work with our clients. TJC served around 900 clients in 2014, all with diverse problems and issues, including inappropriate denials for Medicaid and appeals for medically necessary services. A PICS intern will work with clients to determine the nature of their legal problems and gather needed demographic information and documents before the case is passed to a TJC staff member for review. This is a great way to build relationships with clients and learn about the types of cases TJC handles.

TJC expands the impact of its legal advocacy is by using the stories of individual clients to illustrate and address systemic issues. PICS interns may also gather and document client stories. Poignant client experiences, whether disseminated to the news media, shared with elected officials or provided to courts as testimony, possess a compelling authority that gives immediacy and force to TJC’s policy advocacy. In a broader sense, the collection and dissemination of client stories also helps to put a human face on poverty, which is increasingly important in a society which stereotypes and marginalizes poor people. The intern will review records, interview clients (usually by phone), write up their experiences, and compile supporting documentation. This story gathering is extremely important: it is the actual experiences of real people that provide a reality check on public policies and social theories. 

The intern will have the opportunity to assist with TJC’s outreach efforts, including helping with the creation and dissemination of our online and paper communications to clients, supporters, and the general public. The intern might assist with in-person outreach, as well, by attending community education presentations for potential clients and advocates relating to the community education projects that are active at the time of the internship. TJC’s outreach generally focuses on the rights of individuals on TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program. Outreach efforts might also focus on the Affordable Care Act and new options for uninsured Tennesseans.

Depending on TJC’s needs and the intern’s skills and interests, the intern might also complete projects in other areas. He or she might review documentary evidence or conduct research projects on law or public policy. The intern might also assist with fundraising / grant writing activities by researching funding opportunities, assisting with grant reporting, and drafting and reviewing project proposals.  An intern with the requisite knowledge might also translate materials into Spanish or help maintain TJC’s website. 

Interning with TJC will benefit the intern in that he or she will have an inside view of the workings of a public interest law firm. TJC’s brilliant and dedicated lawyers and its creative and hard-working paralegal and support staff will provide a mentoring environment in which the intern will gain knowledge and skills applicable to a variety of future professional pursuits. The intern will learn a good deal about the federal Medicaid program, which provides health insurance for millions of vulnerable people nationwide. The intern will gain intimate knowledge of Tennessee’s Medicaid program, TennCare, which serves more than a million citizens of the state, and has been looked to as a model (both positive and negative) by other states across the country in efforts to enact health insurance reform. The intern will directly contribute to the well-being of Tennessee’s children by participating in projects designed to help children gain access to the healthcare services their doctors have prescribed.

This past summer, our PICS intern provided direct assistance to our Intake Coordinator, and provided direct assistance on various active cases being handled by our office.  She helped to address systematic issues faced by our clients, and drafted a tool kit to be used by advocates on a specific type of case.  This tool kit outlined the various scenarios that could be seen with this type of case, and provided the appropriate actions to be taken to work the case most effectively.

Internship Qualifications
An intern should have good analytical and critical thinking skills. The person must be empathetic, with good writing skills.  Flexibility, dedication to getting the job done, and willingness to work as part of a team are also important qualities.

Additionally, the candidate should be comfortable speaking and working with individuals from diverse backgrounds, whether it be race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

Fluency in Spanish, web design skills, grant writing experience, video editing expertise, and other technical skills are prized, but not prerequisites.  Prior legal experience and familiarity with the ACA, health care systems, or Medicaid and Medicare policy also desirable.

**Writing sample required: A short 3-5 page essay or excerpt from a longer research paper of the students choosing

Expected Start Time
8:00 am CST

Expected End Time
5:00 pm CST

Required Dates
No earlier than May 30 - no later than August 23

Internship Length
8 Weeks

Meets Certificate Requirement
No

Additional Info
Occasionally, there will be events coordinated by Tennessee Justice Center staff that occur outside of regular business hours, but preparation for these events takes place within the regular work schedule.

WHERE TO LIVE

You’re going to want to look in the downtown / midtown areas.  If you see anything listed for the suburbs (Brentwood, Murfreesboro, Bellevue, etc), you’re going to have a long commute.  Obviously, far away places are going to be less expensive, but not by as much as you’d think.

The basic areas you’ll want to look at are downtown, Midtown /Vanderbilt, Belmont / Hillsboro, Centennial / Sylvan Park, 12th Ave. South, and East Nashville / Five Points.  Of those areas, the cheapest options are generally going to be in 12th South and East Nashville / Five Points.  Downtown will be the most expensive, as real estate is pricey and you’ll have to pay to park.

One quick and easy resource to use is the Vanderbilt Law School.  With all of their students taking various summer placements, they often have information on potential sublet opportunities.

Midtown / Vanderbilt

This is the area mostly near West End Ave., Nashville’s main thoroughfare.  Vanderbilt’s campus dominates this area, and there will be plenty of summer sublets available from students.  This area is near everything you’ll need to get to – downtown, nightlife, shopping, etc.  This is also one of the safest areas in the city.  Mostly you’d find apartments / condos in this area, but there are rental house / duplex options in the neighborhoods immediately south and east of campus.

Keywords: Vanderbilt, Vandy, 21st ave, West End, Centennial, Music Row

Belmont / Hillsboro

This area is adjacent to the Vanderbilt area, but extends further south and east.  The Belmont neighborhood surrounds Belmont University, and this neighborhood consists mainly of early 20th century houses.  If you’re interested in brick and hardwoods, this might be the place for you.  Belmont Boulevard has lots of shops and cafes that cater to the musically-minded crowd at Belmont U.  Hillsboro village is one of the most popular destinations for students from both universities, with sports bars, bistros, and family-owned shops.

Keywords: Belmont, Hillsboro, Wedgewood Ave

12th Ave South

12th Avenue varies greatly as you move away from downtown.  At 12th and Broadway (Broadway is the main street downtown, and it turns into West End as you towards midtown), there is a newly developed area called The Gulch.  This is one of the most expensive areas of Nashville.  There are lots of new condo buildings built within the last few years, as well as upscale dining and shopping.  Travel six blocks farther, and the real estate is predominately subsidized housing.  Go another six blocks, and you are once again in a trendy spot.  This area consists of mostly duplex and small house rental options.

Keywords: Gulch, Mafiaoza’s, Icon, 12South, 12 south, 

East Nashville

One of the most diverse parts of town, East Nashville can vary greatly in income disparities from block to block.  Popular areas include Five Points and Edgehill Village, but there are also several new condo communities that have been built up in the last few years.  The general perception is that East Nashville is much less touristy than the Midtown and Downtown areas.  If you stay near Five Points, though, you should be alright.  Plus, you’ll be very near the TJC office.  

Keywords: Five Points, Edgefield, Lockland Springs.

PARKING OPTIONS

Since the TJC office is located right smack in downtown Nashville, parking near the office isn’t free.  Our office does have an attached garage, and garage rates in the area range from about $100-140 / month to park.  Daily rates are usually in the $10 range.  

TJC is also one block away from Nashville’s bus station.  Bus fares are $1.70 for a one-way ticket, $32.00 for a 20-ride pass, and $84.00 for a monthly pass.  Check www.nashvillemta.org for more info on rates and fares.  Several TJC staffers who live near bus lines choose this option.

Finally, there is free parking available at LP Field (home of the Tennessee Titans).  There is the option to purchase shuttle service for $25/month, but this is not required.  It is about a 15 minute walk from the free lot to TJC’s office.  Several TJC staffers use this option for the convenience of having a nearby care without have to pay for bus fares or parking.  To park here, you will need to order a free parking permit, or you can pay $3/ day.  Unless you plan to pay monthly parking in a closer garage, it probably wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and order the permit.  This permit must be delivered to a downtown address, so feel free to pre-order it before you head down to Nashville.  For more info: http://www.parkitdowntown.com/getting_around/shuttle_info.php

Of course, our office is bike-friendly, and there are usually 1 or 2 bikers in the office.

**Writing sample required: A short 3-5 page essay or excerpt from a longer research paper of the students choosing

Evaluation Excerpt

Best work experience: This summer, I had the privilege of joining the client advocacy team and worked on a number of cases. Depending on their nature, some cases took more time to resolve than others. Consequently, I did not get a chance to close all of the cases that I had opened. However, of the cases that I did successfully close, one left a positive imprint on me.
—Jahdziah St. Julien '18

I connected well with the service mission, which is to advocate for families in need and help them get healthcare. It reaffirmed by deep commitment to using political advocacy to fight poverty and advance economic justice. —Preston Johnston '21

Applications for Summer 2019 will open in November 2018. 

Apply

To read evaluations written by former interns, please contact the
Student Program

Coordinator

Make sure to read the eligibility criteria and requirements prior to submitting an application. Here