Interview with Joshua Turnham, Moderate Means Program Intern
Kerri Kline, Program Assistant at ATJI, had the opportunity to sit down to interview Moderate Means Program intern Joshua Turnham, a second year law student. He shared with us about what he got out of his summer internship experience with MMP and how he made a difference:
KK: How has your understanding of client need changed since you started working at MMP?
JT: I had no real understanding before this internship of how client relations worked. The only thing I had were preconceptions from my first year of law school and TV and movies. It really was grounding to be able to actually talk to people that have real legal needs that aren’t just TV stories; they are complicated and they are messy. All of our clients, any time we talk to them, it’s never not messy. And so I’ve come to appreciate that the client knows what they want but they don’t know how to get there and they need us to help them navigate through legal system. That’s where our expertise comes in. They have vague ideas of what needs to happen but it’s too complicated for them to spend the time to figure out or they’re just not in an emotional place where they can figure it out.
I had two family law cases that were pretty similar but still completely different. Even though the law would treat them in a similar way, the actual human aspect of it is very very different. What is happening with these people and what is happening with their lives, even if it’s the exact same law that’s being applied to the facts, the facts are always different and you have to connect to them in a different way.
KK: Tell me about some of the substantive knowledge you’ve gained through this internship.
JT: MMP deals with family law, consumer law, and housing law, and by far, the biggest area we deal with is family law. I had zero knowledge of family law before I started here. So I’ve gone from zero to a substantial level of understanding in that area, at least within Washington State. I learned a lot with housing law as well. My previous knowledge was very very little. Family law and housing law are just not things you talk about much in your 1L year and you’re probably not even required to learn it; you have to go out and find it yourself if that’s what interests you. So I’ve definitely learned a fair amount in both of those areas.
KK: Do you think that the Moderate Means Program makes a difference in people’s lives?
JT: I think it does make an impact in individual’s lives. Every person that we successfully refer to an attorney is a success story. Anytime we are able to make that connection where somebody is able to meet an attorney and agree to a fee that is fair to the attorney but affordable for the client, that’s going to make a world of difference in their lives.