Bryan Stevenson, Equal Justice Initiative Founder and MacArthur Genius grant recipient, surprised newly admitted UIC Law students when he dropped into an online book discussion about his memoir, Just Mercy.
On June 24, UIC Law hosted a virtual book discussion as part of its Admitted Students Summer Excel Program. Led by Associate Dean Arthur Acevedo and Professor Kevin Hopkins, the discussion focused on the New York Times bestseller, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. The book and movie adaptation are based on Stevenson’s real-life work and experiences as a civil rights attorney.
About halfway through the event, Stevenson himself appeared on their screens. The admitted students had the opportunity to hear first-hand about Stevenson’s cases and his views on current events, such as whether certain monuments should be removed and efforts to end police brutality against black individuals.
Stevenson joined the program at the request of Hopkins, his lifelong friend. Stevenson and Hopkins grew up in Delaware and attended school together. Both later became attorneys and are close to this day.
Admitted student Elizabeth Morgan asked how she and others might follow Stevenson’s path to engage in civil-rights litigation. Stevenson encouraged students to participate in clinical legal work and volunteer with organizations that engage in civil-rights work. “Protect your passion, protect your conviction,” Stevenson said. “You all wrote essays about why you wanted to be lawyers. Read them from time to time so you remember what your motivation and passion is. Sometimes the complexity of law can be so overwhelming we get disconnected from the things that made us want to be lawyers. Holding on to that is really important and will ultimately sustain you and position you well to contribute when you graduate.”
The Admitted Students Summer Excel Program is a six-part virtual program that allows newly admitted students to join their future classmates and faculty, upper-level students and alumni to learn more about law school and the legal profession.
UIC Law will host a second book discussion on Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond is a Harvard sociologist and MacArthur Genius winner, who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and the Order of the Coif Book Award. This book focuses on housing, property law, poverty and other social forces using nearby Milwaukee as the focus. It is a perfect fit for UIC Law, a national leader in fair housing law and policy.