May 30, 2022
Reading Between the Lines: Just Mercy
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) continues to be a focus at Johnson Lambert. Our firm intentionally integrates new voices, viewpoints, and insights into our workplace not only to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment, but to challenge old ways of thinking and help our people gain new perspectives.
Last year, our DEI committee established a series of courageous conversations, hosted on a monthly basis, covering varying topics. While these hour-long sessions have opened the door to difficult dialogues and new outlooks, our team wanted to offer the opportunity for staff to delve deeper into some of these important topics.
With the purpose of challenging team members to better understand the complexities surrounding some of today’s most significant social issues, in January 2022, the education sub-committee of Johnson Lambert’s DEI committee established a DEI book club. Through the lens of literature and the solace of a safe space, our club members were encouraged to learn, to ask questions, and to empathize.
To select the book club’s first novel, the DEI committee conducted a poll. Landing on Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, the 18 club members read the moving story of Bryan Stevenson and his journey of discovering the harsh realities of the American legal system.
Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinkmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever, along with all those reading his story.
The main takeaways from the DEI Book Club’s readers had themes of frustration and helplessness. Most group members reported feeling lost and confused as they read about the harsh realities of America’s prison system, and the stories of those most deeply affected. There were seldom moments of hope and relief throughout the reading, however many readers admitted it was those few and far between moments that helped them connect with the true desperation of those individuals talked about in the book.
As opportunities to get involved with our firm’s DEI efforts continues to be a focus at Johnson Lambert, we look forward to partaking in the three additional readings that will happen this year. Our new book club has taken on the challenge of breaking down barriers and provoking new thoughts, and the readers look forward to exploring what the new horizons of perspective have to offer from our next book selection — stay tuned!