Fall 2025 Fellowship - Tennessee Youth Justice Advocacy

POSITION SUMMARY

What would it look like if Tennessee’s juvenile justice system truly focused on strengthening families, connecting youth to communities, and creating environments that are conducive to healing, growth, and being held accountable for one’s actions? If you are a rising 3L or a judicial clerk interested in using your legal education and training to advance civil rights, the Youth Law Center (YLC) strongly encourages you to apply for our Fall 2025 Fellowship position.

We are seeking applicants who are interested in working on youth justice and related advocacy areas in Tennessee and in applying for fellowships offered by the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, Equal Justice Works Foundation, and law-school-specific or other sponsored fellowships. Candidates for this role should be self-starters with an interest in system-impact projects, particularly in the area of increasing the capacity of civil legal aid attorneys in Tennessee to address collateral challenges faced by youth and families impacted by the youth justice system.

The Youth Law Center has been working on the ground in Tennessee since 2021, with a focus on youth justice and capacity building for systemic advocacy. This fellowship project will build on that work, and address the racial justice challenges that face youth impacted by the justice system in Tennessee. 

The challenges faced by youth in the South who are involved in the juvenile justice system echo the civil rights issues that advocates have worked to address for decades – that fight continues with Youth Law Center’s advocacy today. Our attorneys use policy advocacy at the state capitol – where the Tennessee Three were expelled from the legislature just last year – along with litigation, media advocacy and research and training to fight for the civil rights and basic needs of youth and families. 

Our staff will work closely with the selected candidate to develop a strong fellowship proposal for Tennessee statewide youth justice advocacy that will integrate well with our mission and related areas of focus. Candidates should be located in Tennessee, or willing to relocate there for the term of the fellowship, and planning to take the Tennessee bar exam or already licensed there.

ABOUT THE YOUTH LAW CENTER

Whether it’s supporting thousands of California youth in juvenile justice facilities with pathways to higher education, advocating for state and national policy changes to make it possible for all children in foster care to receive quality, effective parenting, or filing lawsuits across the country to end some of the most harmful policies and practices, Youth Law Center stands firmly on the frontlines pursuing solutions-focused advocacy, justice and hope for children and youth.

The Youth Law Center was formed in 1978 by a handful of dedicated attorneys who believed that children’s rights are important civil rights deserving of protection and expansion. Our initial advocacy focused on removing children from adult jails, addressing harmful conditions and destructive practices for incarcerated children, and ending the incarceration of children for status offenses. This focus drove our efforts to shut down youth prisons, end the practice of sentencing children as adults, close local juvenile detention facilities, and stop the use of incarceration as a “punishment” for children in foster care. Over time, we also began advocating to end similarly harmful conditions and destructive practices in foster care institutions and shelters and to end the use of these facilities as places where children spent their formative years. As we grew increasingly successful in ending harm to children and youth, we simultaneously worked with young people, families, and those closest to them to build child- and youth-focused systems that were informed by developmental science and that provided the opportunities young people needed to become healthy and happy adults.

Our vision is to ensure that experiences in child welfare and juvenile justice systems are a moment in time, rather than a life sentence, for children. Too often, when some of the young people exiting these systems build positive and productive lives, they are characterized as having beaten the odds. Youth Law Center envisions a world where the odds are stacked for these young people, not against them. Find out more about us at ylc.org and qpi4kids.org.

ABOUT YLC’S ADVOCACY

Attorneys at YLC utilize a variety of traditional and creative advocacy strategies, including policy advocacy; litigation; legislative and administrative/regulatory work; collaborative systems-reform campaigns; public education and media advocacy; legal and non-legal writing; training; and technical assistance. YLC’s advocacy approach is grounded in the belief that those most directly impacted by systems are best positioned to transform them. As advocates, we seek out the spaces and places where we can hear from those young people and their families and offer them the support they need to lift up the vision they have for change. We believe that change comes from deeply listening to young people and the organizations that support them, from helping them to translate their ideas into practice and policy change, and from working in partnership to move forward a new narrative about what’s needed to transform systems.

Our advocacy goals include:

  • Ending incarceration of youth in juvenile justice and reimagining new approaches to youth justice
  • Ending use of congregate care for youth in foster care and juvenile justice and ensuring youth receive excellent parenting
  • Improving access to education, including postsecondary education, for system-involved youth
  • Ensuring healthy transitions to adulthood for system-involved youth and access to required services to make that transition
  • Advocating for improved conditions in foster care and juvenile justice systems

Attorneys on our legal team also engage in strategic collaboration with our non-attorney advocacy staff who work on a variety of systems-reform efforts, including YLC’s national Quality Parenting Initiative strategy, Just Beginnings program, and Pathways from Youth Incarceration to Higher Education project.

SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

Factors that will be utilized in evaluating candidates include:

  • Demonstrated commitment to public interest law
  • Knowledge of, experience with, or strong interest in child welfare and/or juvenile justice issues
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Strong analytic ability and legal research skills
  • Ability to work independently yet also work well with others
  • Anticipated or current bar membership (with strong preference given to applicants who are or will be members of the Tennessee Bar)
  • Ability to travel within Tennessee and, occasionally, to other U.S. locations

BIPOC candidates and people who have lived experience in the child welfare and/or juvenile justice system are strongly encouraged to apply.

Employment & Benefit Details

  • Employment Status: Full-time, exempt; this may be either a one-year or two-year position (depending upon the term of the awarded fellowship), with the potential to extend into a full-time staff position in related work at the conclusion of the fellowship.
  • Salary: $74,000 – $83,000; fellows will begin at the bottom of this range unless they have prior post-graduate experience in a judicial clerkship or another fellowship. The fellow must obtain external funding, and YLC will supplement salary up to the relevant salary step on our scale.
  • Paid Time Off: This position is eligible for YLC’s flexible, unlimited paid vacation policy, as well as generous accrued paid sick time and 11+ paid holidays annually.
  • Benefits: Complete health benefits package (medical HMO & PPO options, dental, vision, STD, LTD, and life) as well as an EAP, remote work reimbursement, healthcare and dependent care FSA plans and, after one year of service, a 401k with up to 4% employer match. Currently, all health benefits coverage is 100% employer-paid, with no employee or dependent premium contribution.
  • Location: This position will be based in Tennessee and will be fully remote, with opportunities for in-person work with YLC’s other Nashville-based staff member as relevant and needed for the project.

TO APPLY

Please submit an application via email to careers@ylc.org and include all of the following required documents:

  1. Cover letter, explaining your interest in YLC, including why you are specifically interested in working on a project related to access to civil legal aid for juvenile justice impacted youth in Tennessee. This letter should also outline related work or life experience that make you an excellent candidate for this position.
  2. Resume
  3. Writing sample
  4. List of at least three academic or professional references

Please submit all required documents (either as a single PDF or as separate Word or PDF document attachments) at the time of application. Incomplete applications will not be considered for this position.

Timeline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but preference will be given to applications received by June 1st, 2024, as interviews will be conducted during the summer.

If you have questions about this position or the application process, feel free to contact us at careers@ylc.org. Due to the volume of applications and questions we receive, we may not be able to respond to every inquiry in detail.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER

YLC values a diverse, inclusive workforce and we provide equal employment opportunity for all applicants and employees. All qualified applicants for employment will be considered without regard to an individual’s race, color, sex, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, body size, national origin or ancestry, citizenship, physical or mental disability, medical condition, family care status, marital status, domestic partner status, sexual orientation, genetic information, military or veteran status, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION

Read our DEI statement here.

 

Posting Updated: 5/20/2024

Original Posting: 2/2/2024