by Brent Amato
The 2017 CLS National Conference theme is Discovering Joy in the Law. Our devotionals will concentrate on the theme of "joy" through October.
There appears to be a pretty grim picture of the practice of law.
First, there is law school -- the academic rigors; the immense cost; the law professors, teaching you “how to think”; a challenging if not unsettling experience. Your peers are all seemingly smarter than you and in fierce competition for academic honors, class rank, and jobs. And spiritually, there is the temptation to put your Christianity “on the shelf” for three years.
Then there’s the job market -- studies proclaim to the newly graduated: “Legal field is nation’s most difficult industry for job placement. Less than one job opening for every 100 working lawyers.” Employment and even partnership don’t necessarily insure security. The ABA Journal shares about partner layoffs and states “You’re only as secure as the amount of money you bring in.”
Then there is the actual practice of law -- more studies: “One-third of lawyers in Chicago area not satisfied with choosing law as a profession . . . pressure, lack of a challenge, no respect from clients, work environment, office politics, long hours, long time for promotions, no respect from superiors.”; “A study of 50 trial attorneys indicates that most regret the years they missed while their children were growing up. Many spoke wistfully of failed relationships and lost love.” An ABA Young Lawyers survey revealed: “40 % dissatisfied with their jobs.”
Joy in the practice of law?
Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary Philippians, entitled Be Joyful, identifies four “joy-stealers”: circumstances, people, things, and worry. Let's look at the first joy-stealer, circumstances.
Consider the circumstances the average attorney deals with every day. Can there be joy in the practice of law in spite of circumstances? Based on Philippians 1, Wiersbe says, “Yes.”
One of the themes of Phillipians is joy. Wiersbe suggests that the key to joy in spite of circumstances is a “single minded” focused on Jesus Christ. He asks us these questions:
1. Are you a “single-minded” or “double-minded” person?
2. Are you living to enjoy circumstances or living to serve Jesus?
3. Are you looking at Jesus through your circumstances or at your circumstances through Jesus?
Consider the author of Philippians (the lawyer, Paul) and his challenging circumstances. He writes that he could experience joy in spite of circumstances because those circumstances (1) helped strengthen his fellowship with other Christians (1:1-11), (2) gave him an opportunity to lead others to Christ (1:12-26) and (3) enabled him to defend the Gospel before the courts of Rome (1:27-30).
Are you seeking fellowship in the midst of the circumstances of law practice or study? Christian Legal Society exists in part to provide and strengthen Christian fellowship - Christian attorneys and law students gathering together in relationships and addressing circumstances challenging the integration of their faith and law practice. That fellowship resonates in our minds (Phil. 1:3, 5-6), our hearts (1:7-8) and our prayers (1:4, 9-11) and leads to joy.
Can the circumstances of your practice of your law practice lead to the furtherance of the Gospel? This was true for Paul and it can be true for you! Neither Paul’s circumstances of chains (Phil. 1:12-14), critics (1:15-18) or crisis (1:19-20) robbed him of his mission for Christ or his Christian joy.
Finally, might your practice of law, no matter what your practice area, also provide a forum for defending the Gospel? Paul calls us to defend the Gospel consistently, collectively, cooperatively and confidently (Phil. 1:27-30).
What are your answers to Wiersbe’s questions? What can you change to find joy today?
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Brent Amato is the CLS Chicagoland Coordinator and former CLS national president and board member. He meets with lawyers, law students, and other professionals in the law in and around Chicago. He also is looking for others like himself to train and do the same work in other big cities.