Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson

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Student Question

Why does the first receptionist quit in chapter one of Just Mercy?

Quick answer:

In Chapter One of Just Mercy, Brian's first receptionist quits because she wants to work in a "real law office", as she puts it. An experienced legal secretary, she doesn't think much of the Southern Prisoners's Defense Committee in Atlanta, not least because Bryan comes to work wearing jeans and sneakers. She clearly believes that her future lies in a more conventional, more professional law office.

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Bryan's interning at the Southern Prisoners's Defense Committee (SPDC) in Atlanta, where he's been working full-time since graduation. His temporary receptionist, a smartly-dressed African American woman in a dark, expensive business suit, is none too impressed with her working environment. Above all, she's not remotely impressed by Bryan's demeanor. He doesn't look much like a legal professional in his jeans and sneakers.

When Bryan offers to answer any questions his receptionist may have, she cooly waves him away by telling him that she's an experienced legal secretary. Obviously, she's used to much better things; she doesn't have much time for what appears to be a law office at or near the bottom of the legal food chain.

On only her second day at work, the receptionist informs Bryan that she'll be leaving in a week's time to work at what she calls "a real law office." The implication is, of course, that the SPDC office is not a real law office at all or anything like it. Its more laid-back working environment is clearly not one that the receptionist is used to. One gets the impression that she'd be much happier working for a much sleeker, more professional outfit. Bryan's none too fussed, though; he simply wishes the receptionist good luck.

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