January 3, 2011

From Lawyer to Lawmaker

Me (front row, third from left) with PA House GOP Freshman Class

On November 2, 2010, I was elected State Representative of Pennsylvania's 199th District. On January 4, 2011, I am sworn-in to office (you can watch a live video feed of the ceremony at 12:00 pm EST) for my initial two-year term.

In order to perform the full time duties of my new position, I have reduced my law practice status at Irwin & McKnight, P.C. to "of counsel."

I don't expect to be blogging here much for the duration, but might occasionally stop in for a relevant post or two. Meanwhile, I'm tweeting @RepBloom and @StephenLBloom, and posting frequent updates at my official legislative facebook.

Godspeed to all who read this. I will covet your prayers as I transition from lawyer to lawmaker.

September 23, 2010

The paycheck for teaching is often small, but sometimes it's huge

Christie McGinley, Regent Law 1L
A former student of mine at Messiah College (where I teach part-time in the Department of Management & Business) sent me a link to this Regent University School of Law "Student Stories" feature about her. She told me, "You're in there as my 'college advisor.'" Here's an excerpt:

She's always found the law interesting, yet it's not the first profession that springs to mind as a good fit for McGinley, who describes herself as "not argumentative" and "not outspoken." Here's what led this amenable, non-competitive young woman to choose a career in law: meeting lawyers who integrated their Christian faith with professional excellence and integrity.

Her college advisor, a lawyer who helped her complete a senior project on Christian liberties, was one such individual. "I had never heard of a lawyer so respected by everyone he knew, and I was blown away," she says. "It was amazing to see how he lived out his faith in his practice and I just thought to myself, 'Wow - that's something I want to be able to do.'" 

And that's why I love teaching. I don't know of any work that pays better!

Have you been blessed by investing your time and talent in something that doesn't provide a big paycheck?

August 23, 2010

Liberty Law Journal: What Happens When You Give Your Law License to God?

I haven't posted much lately, due to the demands of my ongoing political campaign. However, I did want to quickly share this new Liberty Law Journal article derived from one of the recent talks I presented at the Helms School of Government of Liberty University.

The title is "What Happens When You Give Your Law License to God?" and the piece was capably adapted from my talk by Liberty Law student Jeremy Roe.

I hope you're blessed by my thoughts on the seduction of success, the shadow mission, finding your true mission, and the desires of your heart.

What happens when you give your law license to God?

March 23, 2010

The Legal Adventure: Politics 199

One of my favorite talks I present to law student groups is entitled "What Happens When You Give Your Law License to God?"  More than anything else, it's a personal testimony of the wonderful life journey God has accompanied me on as a Christian lawyer.

Now, an exciting new phase of that journey is opening as I've officially become a candidate for the Pennsylvania State Legislature (199th District). I'm running in the Republican primary and election day is May 18.

For those who'd like to learn more about the race and my platform, my campaign website is www.StephenLBloom.com

I welcome your prayers, your volunteer involvement, and your financial support!

(you need not be a Pennsylvania resident to help or give)

What unexpected doors has your law license opened to you?

March 5, 2010

Encouraging and challenging the rising generation of Christian pre-law students and future lawyers

On March 9, I'm speaking with students at the Helms School of Government at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virgina.

I'll be encouraging and challenging the rising generation of Christian lawyers to whole-heartedly integrate their faith and values into their professional lives, and we'll be exploring some specific areas where typical secular legal advice often runs contrary to Biblical wisdom.

The titles of my talks are "What Happens When You Give Your Law License to God" and "Legal Advice Christians Should Refuse to Follow."

More info here. Looking forward to my first visit to Liberty!

February 12, 2010

The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace: Legal Edition

Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown in to a blazing furnace. - Daniel 3:10-11 (TNIV)

You know the rest of the story. Because of their faith in God, three young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to fall down and worship. Accepting their promised punishment, they chose not to defend themselves. So the King's henchmen threw them into a fiery furnace. And God delivered them, unharmed.

Now, put yourself in the story. As a lawyer, or as a law student...

At the sound of what music are you expected to fall down and worship?

What is the image of gold to which you are expected to bow?

Who is the king issuing the decree? Who are the king's henchmen (or henchwomen)?

And what is the blazing furnace you are expected to fear?

February 6, 2010

Faith at the Firm: Are You in the Zone, or in the Catacombs?

Tired of trying to be someone you're not? Would your co-workers be surprised that you are a Christian?

These are two of the worthy questions posed by Kyle Rote Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew in their new book, Living Life in the Zone: A 40-Day Spiritual Gameplan for Men. While the book targets the Christian male general reader, it's full of relevant faith challenges for those of us practicing law, especially lawyers who find themselves fearfully keeping their Christianity hidden from colleagues and clients (a phenomenon one stealth-Christian lawyer described to me as "hiding in the catacombs").

Rote and Pettigrew offer some solid answers:

Don't be a chameleon - James 1:8: "He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

You must renounce and confess your internal inconsistencies - 2 Corinthians 4:2: "But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."

God created it all - including your workplace - and He claims authority over it - Psalm 89:11: "The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them."

You must proclaim Christ to others so that they can be in fellowship with Him and experience complete joy - 1 John 1:3-4: "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full."

As a Christian lawyer, are you living in the zone, or hiding in the catacombs?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Additionally, I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blawg. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

February 3, 2010

Ten Easy Ways to be a Christian Lawyer

1) Stick a Bible on your desk

2) Put a fish in your ad

3) Keep some tracts in your conference room

4) Sponsor your church bulletin

5) Post a Scripture verse on your wall

6) Join the Christian Legal Society

7) Promise clients you'll pray for them

8) Buy a listing in the Shepherd's Guide

9) Make special visits to accident victims

10) Close your office on Good Friday

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea. I'm not knocking these things, I've done most of them myself. But alone they are empty gestures or, worse, self-serving deceptive posturing.

Being a Christian lawyer is never that easy, never that simple. And it's probably going to cost you a lot more than the price of sponsoring the church bulletin.

What are some marks of a genuinely Christian lawyer?

January 28, 2010

Lawyer Rule #1: Keep Your Hands in Your Own Pockets

"Doesn't it strike this company as unusual that a lawyer should have both hands in his own pockets?" - Mark Twain

For the third time in my legal career, a lawyer I've rubbed briefcases with in the local bar has gone completely off the ethics reservation, cheating clients out of vast sums of money.

In two out of the three cases, the lawyers in question held themselves out to the community as Christians.

And these weren't subtle cases of murky moral boundaries. No, these lawyers were caught flat out defrauding and stealing from the people they were supposed to be representing.

Why do we bother with fancy rules of professional conduct for attorneys when we can't even follow the 8th Commandment!

Is Mark Twain right?

Are we lawyers really unable to keep our hands in our own pockets?

What's your take?

January 23, 2010

Pillars of Success: People and Providence

My wife does a really cool "Flashback Friday" feature every week on her Connecting to Today blog. This week, her post focused on a picture of me at my law school graduation, back in 1987, standing before my father, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, grandfather, and aunt. In the reflection of almost 23 years, the image speaks so eloquently of the investment each of these folks poured into my life, and the hopeful anticipation we all shared for my future as a lawyer.

For me (and I hope for them), it's been an amazing ride, taking me places I would never have expected or even imagined as I stood there in the presence of my beloved elders on graduation day.

As the picture reminds me, none of us make it in law on our own. Our success is the product of God's providence and the support of all those who help us along the journey, in ways big and small.

Who are the people who've helped you succeed in your legal career?

January 20, 2010

A Matter of Law and Debt

If you're a law student or seriously considering law school, then do yourself a favor and prayerfully consider Mike Schutt's on-the-money new post on law and debt at Redeeming Law.

Mike paints a stark picture of the constraining realities of law school debt, and then offers a helpful list of five key points to help you thoroughly think through the law school financing decision.

Emerging from law school with very modest debt was a ticket to freedom for me. Law is a great career with lots of amazing lifestyle options... IF you're not an indentured servant!

How has law school debt (or the lack thereof) impacted your legal career?

January 16, 2010

"In Justice" by Alliance Defense Fund CEO Alan Sears: Frightening Future or Emerging Reality?

In Justice is a new novel about an America of the future, a place where basic religious freedoms and rights of conscience have come under vicious attack by hostile government institutions, including the Department of Justice and a new federal agency, the Diversity and Tolerance Enforcement Division. Pastors, ministry leaders, and ordinary believers who dare to express traditional religious values are relentlessly persecuted, perp-walked in high-profile law enforcement take-downs, even killed in overzealous raids gone awry, all in the name of ending "discrimination." And the only hope standing between our last remnants of religious liberty and the powerful Alinsky-inspired forces of secular oppression is a small group of dedicated and fearless Christian lawyers.

The premise of In Justice is believable, but perhaps too believable. Perhaps the emergence of this frightening future is inevitable, or perhaps the story is being overtaken by real world events? The recent comments of a sitting state attorney general and U.S. Senate candidate that "you probably shouldn’t work in the emergency room" if you're a Catholic, the unprecedented ongoing expansion of federal government powers, the population of the Obama administration with a multitude "czars" pursuing various radical agendas, and even the new Federal Trade Commission requirement that bloggers like me publish legal notices such as the one appearing beneath this post, all make the book read almost like an immersion in current, rather than future, events.

Either way, Sears knows his stuff. He's been fighting in the trenches of the battle for American religious freedom for decades, and he understands the players inside and out. In Justice offers lawyers valuable insight into the real life world inhabited by legal advocates for liberty, like the Alliance Defense Fund, and it exposes the strategies, tactics, and mindsets of those aggressively seeking to snuff out that liberty.

What are your thoughts on "In Justice" by Alan Sears?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Additionally, I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blawg. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

January 13, 2010

Adventures in Lawyering: Facing the Global Warming Giants

And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. - 1 Samuel 17:47 (KJV)

Below is a short news video report on the Commonwealth Foundation's "Mann-Made Global Warming" press conference in which I participated yesterday (my segment is at 1:11). A few citizens facing the giants of the global warming establishment:

As I stood to speak on this grave situation from the rotunda of Pennsylvania's historic capitol, I was encouraged and fortified by the words of Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn, appearing high in the dome above: There may be room there for such a holy experiment - For the nations want a precedent - And my God will make it the seed of a nation - That an example may be set up to the nations - That we may do the thing that is truly wise and just.

What giants are you facing as a Christian lawyer?

January 7, 2010

Making friends with the jealous mistress

Back in 1829, Supreme Court Associate Justice Joseph Story accurately stated, "I will not say with Lord Hale, that 'The Law will admit of no rival' ...but I will say that it is a jealous mistress, and requires a long and constant courtship.  It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage."

In the nearly 200 years since, the practice of law hasn't become any less insistent in its demands for lavish, long, and constant courtship. Any practicing lawyer knows there's always more to be done. We don't go home at the end of the day because we're finished, but because we've decided it's time to go home.

How do you make (and enforce) that decision to quit for the day? What disciplines, rationales, or tricks of the mind work for you in keeping the jealous mistress at bay?

For me, two concepts are essential: Boundaries and sacrifice.

Boundaries means, first, that I'm alert to the threat of law consuming all my waking hours (and stealing my sleeping hours). And second, boundaries means establishing certain deliberate defenses. Leaving the office by a set time, not working on weekends and especially Sundays, avoiding bringing work home. While none of these boundaries are easy to keep, their very existence makes them possible to keep. It's amazing what you can get done within your boundaries when they are firmly set.

Sacrifice means that I choose certain things above the law, no matter the consequences. God and serving him in tangible ways, family, recreation. The list is different for each lawyer, but there are things more important than law practice. And sacrifice means, yes, losing something. For me the cost is often income and professional recognition (although when it comes to recognition, I've seemingly gained more of it the more I've been willing to sacrifice it).

What are the keys to your healthy balance of life and law practice? What boundaries do you set? What sacrifices do you make?

How do you make friends with the jealous mistress?

Note: I touch on some related thoughts in an essay, "Making Friends with the Jealous Mistress: Successfully Balancing Law Practice and Life," which I wrote for The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine's July/August 2008 issue. If you'd like a free copy of that essay, just leave a comment and your contact info, and I'll be happy to email the pdf file.