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Meet Alyssa Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alyssa Johnson.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I’m a formerly practicing lawyer who now works with lawyers and legal organizations on topics related to lawyer well-being and race literacy.

I graduated law school in 2004 and practiced law and worked in corporate America in DC until 2013. At that time, I was so disenchanted with the practice of law that I quit the legal profession entirely and left DC.

In 2015, I moved to Austin. Shortly after moving here, I started volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem (“GAL”) with a nonprofit that works with kiddos who are in the child welfare system due to abuse or neglect. My volunteer GAL role required that I work with attorneys from Child Protective Services, the attorneys representing the children, and the attorneys representing the children’s parents. I also appeared in court every few months to update the judge on the progress of the children for whom I was a GAL. I found that I really enjoyed working with lawyers and the legal profession in this capacity. I wasn’t practicing law, but I was using my legal skills to make sure that children who were in the child welfare system were having their needs met and weren’t getting lost in the system.

Additionally, I started my race literacy journey in 2015. Prior to that, I rarely thought about and never discussed race or racism; however, although the population makeup of Austin is predominantly White, the vast majority of children in the child welfare system in Austin are children of Color. The nonprofit I volunteer for offers extensive race literacy training for its employees and volunteers so we can be more racially aware as we work with our kiddos. It took a couple of years for me to work through my extensive resistance, guilt and shame around my internalized racism, but I kept at the work and addressed enough of my race trauma that I started to love race literacy work.

In terms of working with lawyers and legal organizations on topics related to lawyer well-being and race literacy, it wasn’t until about 2020 that my heart started changing and I felt an inner heart calling to do this type of work. I’d spent a number of years learning about trauma, emotional intelligence, emotional regulation, and hormone regulation. I decided to use this knowledge to help lawyers expand their self-awareness and create better work-life boundaries.

The legal profession is racist and I saw a huge need to work with White lawyers on expanding our race literacy and racial awareness. My ultimate goal is to be a part of dismantling White supremacy within our profession.

Today I consult, coach, and teach on a number of topics related to lawyer well-being, and I’m doing more and more training on racial literacy for White people. I also teach a number of continuing legal education courses as a way to share information on well-being and race literacy.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been a smooth road, but lots of bumps, twists and turns. In hindsight, however, every struggle has taken me exactly where I needed to go in order to do my work with lawyers.

I grew up in an unloving home. Part of the reason I left DC in 2013 was because I had an emotional collapse. Repressed memories from childhood started coming back. I was depressed and having suicidal ideations.

For nine years now, I’ve been working on and off with my therapist who has helped me work through many of the woundings from childhood. As part of that process, my self-awareness and emotional intelligence have grown, as well as my understanding of trauma, early childhood development, and how unresolved trauma can show up in our adult lives. Although the pieces I work with in my psyche today don’t tend to cause as much pain as in the past, the first 3-5 years of therapy were extraordinarily painful as my system worked itself out of the trauma it was holding. There was a period of time when I didn’t know what reality was. I was having repressed memories surface a few days/week and nightmares about childhood almost every night. My therapist helped me work with my body and psyche to process what was coming through and address the many ways trauma was showing up. It was a horrible experience and one I would never wish on anyone.

But a gift that came out of it was that I learned to trust myself so deeply. My body knowing was always spot on as I processed childhood memories and my inner being always knew something was going on even if my brain rejected it. That experience helped me learn to listen to my body and inner being much more and rely less on my brain. This is a huge feat for many people – especially a lawyer because our profession overprioritizes intellectual development and grossly undervalues emotional and body wisdom.

I’ve also struggled with a question many of us find challenging – what is my Purpose in Life? What am I here to do? Much of my identity was wrapped up in being a lawyer. When I removed that from my Life, I had no idea what to do. So that has been a journey in and of itself. And I now feel so aligned in the training and experiences I’ve had and the work that I’m doing. I never felt that way in the past. Again, such a gift I’ve received because of the struggles I’ve faced along the way.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I love my work related to lawyer well-being and race literacy.

My work with lawyer well-being has evolved from my own experiences practicing or interfacing in some way with the practice of law.

When I lived in DC, I found that the values of lawyers there tended to be: 1) how much you made; 2) who you worked for; and 3) how much you worked. I found DC to be an incredibly aggressive legal market and it was wearing on people. And because lawyers worked so much, there wasn’t a lot of time or spaciousness for self-reflection, inner work, or emotional development. Many lawyers, including myself, were so unhappy but didn’t know how to address the dissatisfaction they were experiencing.

In Austin, I don’t sense that the legal market is as aggressive as DC, but there’s dissatisfaction amongst lawyers with their practices here, too.

Most lawyers want better work-life balance, less stress, less overwhelm, less pressure to do everything perfectly, and less incivility in the practice of law.

So often, the work that I do with lawyers is navigating those pieces. Law tends to be a very externally validating profession. Are clients happy with our work product, is the bill we sent them reasonable, did we submit outstanding materials to the court, did we draft the perfect document – these are the types of externally validating activities that occur in our practices. But to achieve a better work-life balance, manage stress better, deal with overwhelm, work on perfectionistic tendencies, and create greater civility in our profession requires inner work.

I’m very good at what I do in terms of helping lawyers navigate their inner worlds because I spent so many years working through my trauma and building up my inner resources.

The race literacy piece is a natural complement to helping lawyers do inner work. As I’ve learned in my race literacy journey, we all have race-based trauma, but how we interface with it depends upon our skin color. For White people, our race-based trauma is carried in our bodies as supremacy. The trauma of supremacy tends to be experienced as, among other things, guilt, shame, anger, denial, and resistance. Additionally, the trauma tends to flow through the body differently depending upon gender. Because of these differences amongst genders, I generally focus my race literacy efforts on White women lawyers.

The reality is that there’s virtually no aspect of society that isn’t touched by law in some way. Being a lawyer comes with extensive power and privilege. If White lawyers can do the deep work that’s required to examine and work through our race-based trauma, I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t have a profound impact on our profession and our society.

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters to me most is two-fold: 1) living a Life that’s truly in alignment with my heart; and 2) the legacy that I leave behind.

To live a Life that’s in alignment with my heart requires daily self-reflection and deep inner listening. It requires that I consciously and intentionally move away from going about my day as a robot but rather slowing down, checking in with myself, and listening to the guidance I receive from my heart and inner being.

My heart’s wishes change over time, of course, but right now, my heart wants a deep connection with loved ones, for me to live my life fully and to the best of my ability, to work through woundings that are preventing me from showing up in the world in an authentic way, to speak up consistently on racism, and to use my considerable skills and talents to expand consciousness within the legal profession.

I also think about the legacy I will leave behind. At the end of my Life, can I look back and honestly say that I went places emotionally that were scary, that I worked with my fears and took action, that I stood for myself and others, and that I experienced Love in ways that I wouldn’t have thought possible? Will I be able to look myself in the mirror and say I did everything possible to dismantle White supremacy on this planet? Will I be able to say that I healed as much family dysfunction that was lodged in my body that I could? That I freed and reclaimed myself to the best of my ability? I’m very clear that my tombstone is not going to say, “She billed a lot”, which is something lawyers will deeply understand. I want my tombstone to say something like “She had fear and she did it anyway. And wow, did she love.”

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All of the pictures of me in the blue/black dress are from Val of Spark of Color Photography ( The picture of me in jeans sitting on the grass is from Yolotl Ochoa of Lucky Star Photo (

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