I recently came across a reflection about how much the practice of law changes us. A longtime CLS Jacksonville member, Rose Marie Preddy, wrote up those changes into three top ten lists. She was giving a presentation to lawyers and law students, and her lists helped to bring perspective through the years, from pre-law to law school to many years later.
Going back to the beginning, do you remember why you wanted to become a lawyer? Do any of these resonate with you?
Top Ten Reasons You Became a Lawyer
- To help others
- To use the values of Christ to influence in law and government (i.e., justice and mercy)
- To make money
- To have the power to change
- To enjoy the academic study of law
- To open opportunities to do other things, not just practice law
- To learn how to solve problems
- To seek the Intellectual challenges
- To be able to run your own business
- Have something to do because you have no other ideas
What lofty goals! The reality of practice, however, whether one year or many years, tends to shape our perspective. It also tends to shape who we have become. Many lawyers do not like what "practicing law" is doing to them. They no longer even recognize why they wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. Do any of these resonate with you?
Top Ten Negative Traits of Being a Lawyer
- You're an advocate, but not a reconciler or a peacemaker
- You use your power for your own prestige or recognition; ("Do you know who I am?" syndrome)
- You observe (or exhibit) behaviors that reveal lawyers’ own “issues”, which tend to aggravate a conflict (observe or exhibit bad tempers)
- You hold contempt or arrogance toward clients or attorneys; you have an inability to have humility (never admit you made mistake?)
- Greed..even to the point that you leverage your assets (or worse, your firms and clients’ assets) to acquire more possessions (you falsify billing or use funds before you perform services)
- Due to pressure and stress and an inability to manage it, you may tend toward depression, alcohol, and/or drug abuse
- Due to intensity of the workplace, be unfaithful to your spouse with staff or co-workers
- Laziness and inattentiveness towards parties and clients
- Developing a trait of paranoia (similar to physicians) that someone could file actions against your clients (or you)
- Suppressing your personality (and forgetting why you wanted to be a lawyer) in place of how you think an attorney should behave (i.e., exhibiting rude behavior or taking the highest paid job regardless of quality of work or quality of life)
Does any of that ring true to you? Does it sadden you?
We know deep down that these traits are not reflective of the salt and light of Jesus Christ in this profession. We must be intentional to pursue Him, especially in the workplace, if we are to fulfill the calling He laid on our hearts - to become lawyers.
Top Ten Traits Followers of Jesus Need to Intentionally Pursue
- The fruits of the spirit, which will be amplified (i.e., evidencing peace in the midst of the storms of your clients)
- Be an example of ethics, honesty, and treating clients with respect while still being firm
- Learning to pray for opposing attorneys, their clients, and your clients
- Valuing your relationship with your Christian colleagues and realizing they are your brothers and sisters (don’t neglect fellowship)
- Realizing people value your profession (this perception is far greater than you can imagine)
- Realizing this profession allows you to easily transition to be a Bible teacher. (You learned to think like a lawyer. Why did Jesus criticize them so much? Because of their the influence and ability to teach, persuade (and mislead) people of faith)
- Having joy to realize that the more money you make, the more ministries you can support
- Ignoring the stigma of not practicing law and having courage to find your own path
- Thrive being a problem solver, thinking on your feet, and learning to see all sides of a matter
- Accept the challenge (set by Florida's Death Row Chaplain to Christian attorneys) by asking yourself every day ‘what have I done today to alleviate suffering?’”
I pray these three top ten lists challenge and bless you, both in knowing you are not alone in your struggles and also knowing the Lord is pursuing you daily to follow Him.
In the end, may we remember the CLS motto - Seeking Justice with the Love of God - and be reminded to actively pursue Him in all, every day.