Since its inception, our country has failed to live up to its founding creed that all people are created equal. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are examples of the continual acts of violence, discrimination, and bigotry committed against Black people that must end. This crisis of inequality and racial injustice is daunting, complex and sprawling. But the recent outpouring of support for listening to and addressing the challenges that we as a nation face provides hope. Hope that sadness, protest, and outcry will become meaningful and persistent action that leads to systemic change. As an organization of lawyers and legal industry professionals, we bear a special responsibility to initiate that action and to ensure our nation lives up to its founding creed that all people are created equal. Our profession calls on us “to promote justice and public good” and to further the public’s “confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority.”
As a firm, we have focused on advocating against injustices of all types and particularly with respect to fighting systemic racial injustice and disparities in our communities. Our efforts have included partnerships with: Corner to Corner (an organization that assists small business entrepreneurs in low-income and minority communities); the Choosing Justice Initiative (an organization focused on remedying inequities and racial bias in our criminal justice system); and The Tennessee Innocence Project (a nonprofit working to prevent and correct wrongful convictions). More information on our pro bono efforts can be found here.
Recent events make it clear, however, that we must do more. We have all read and heard many eloquent and moving statements on this topic recently. We need to combine these sentiments with tangible support and action. Our firm is beginning to discuss how best to expand our current efforts. Our planning will include our Executive Committee, African-American Affinity Group (3AG), and our Pro Bono Committee.
The need for action is urgent. In response, we have joined with a consortium of 20 law firms across the country. The group expects to focus on providing: real-time support to local and regional legal organizations focused on constitutional and civil rights; seconded associates to organizations that need immediate help in strategizing and implementing racial justice legal strategies; and bail reform and legal support. In addition, we will expand our pro bono work protecting civil rights and providing legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable people and families in order to help eradicate the root causes that perpetuate racial inequalities.
As we move forward, we will also focus more of our pro bono work on racial and criminal justice reform, and we will offer internal and community programming and dialogue. Doing more will require all of us to do more. Doing more includes listening to, learning from, engaging with, and compassion for members of our Black community and other people of color who have experienced discrimination.
We are grateful to be part of a law firm that is generous in spirit and continually supports one another. These thoughts and plans are an initial step.