November 10, 2009

Every Christian Lawyer's Got a Career Crisis Story. Here's Mine. What's Yours?

Preface (excerpted from The Believer's Guide to Legal Issues)

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. — PSALM 127:1

It was a summer night in Philadelphia, July 10, 1998. My knees ached against the concrete as I prayed, wedged between the front of my own folded stadium seat and the seatbacks of the row below.

The space wasn’t designed for prayer. Perfect, maybe, for standing to cheer a touchdown run or a long drive to deep left field, but not an ideal place for a grown man to drop to his knees and pray. Yet there I was, with 40,000 of my brothers in Christ, all kneeling awkwardly but reverently, in silence on the stadium floor.

I had been struggling intensely for almost a year, wrestling with God over a major decision. As the weekend of the Promise Keepers stadium conference approached, I prayed that God would somehow use this event to answer my prayers, to reveal his will to me in a clear, understandable way.

Even on the hundred-mile bus ride to the stadium, I continued to pray that this might be the weekend. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the speed or clarity with which God would speak to me that night in Philadelphia.

It was only the first evening of the two-day conference. The man who asked us to get on our knees was only the first of more than a half dozen speakers lined up for the weekend. And yet, as he led us in those moments of prayer, there it was.

It wasn’t something the speaker said. It wasn’t an audible voice. It wasn’t even phrased as a direct response to the question I’d been wrestling with. But it was totally clear, almost insistent in its clarity. It was the unmistakable voice of God. The words were as thunderous as they were quiet. I had my answer: “YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.”

I’d been a born-again believer in Jesus Christ for nearly nine years and a practicing lawyer for almost eleven. At first, the two seemed entirely compatible. But as the Holy Spirit steadily cleansed my heart over the years, a tension gradually began to build. By 1997, that tension was maturing into a full-blown spiritual crisis. Could I, as a Christian, continue to make my living in a profession that seemed to embrace a value system entirely contrary to the teachings of Jesus?

So I began to pray and struggle. I was a partner in one of the largest and most well-respected law firms in our county. The men and women I worked with were good, honest, and decent folks. Many were even Christians. The financial compensation was excellent and the future, by all accounts, was secure. But it was a secular firm practicing law from the same worldly perspective as a thousand other firms across the country. Nothing illegal or improper, but certainly no intentional focus on incorporating Christian values into legal practice.

On one hand, I sensed God calling me to do something radical. While I had a good measure of freedom at the law firm, still there were unspoken rules of conformity and a conventional secular approach was expected. The firm was simply not the place to experiment with an entirely new way of practicing law. Further, it wasn’t yet clear to me whether God was actually calling me to become a “Christian lawyer” or if he was, instead, calling me to leave the legal profession altogether for a ministerial vocation.

On the other hand, I had a wife and three young children to support. Did it make sense to put them at economic risk to pursue a somewhat vague and uncertain path? And if I left the law firm, wouldn’t that be taking the easy way out? Shouldn’t I just buck up and try to be a witness for Christ where I was?

The questions kept multiplying. Would leaving the firm be disloyal to my partners? Or would staying on when my heart was elsewhere actually be more disloyal? Was it possible to become an overtly Christian lawyer, or would I merely be trading on the name of Christ for financial gain? Could I even make a living at all as a Christian lawyer? My mind was racing. What did God really want me to do? Many times over I’d convince myself to hold steady on the course, only to find all the questions rushing back within months, or weeks, or even days.

By early 1998, I was beginning to drive my very patient wife and myself to frustration. At some point, she temporarily “banned” me from discussing the topic with her any further, to give us a much needed break. But as the year slipped by and the date for that summer’s Promise Keepers event eased closer, I began to gain a sense of hope that perhaps, at long last, a decision would finally be at hand.

And so it was that I found myself listening to God speak to me that hot July night in Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. The uncertainty and doubt had been instantaneously removed. Thanks be to God, I knew what I had to do. From that night on, it was simply a matter of finding the courage to do it. I would start a Christian law practice.

And when the time was right, God filled me with the courage I needed. There were some inevitable tears and a few heated discussions,but all in all, the transition unfolded as if God’s hand was directing the entire process, which I believe it was. My professional associates conducted themselves with admirable class and integrity, for which I will always remain grateful, and my clients responded with a level of support beyond anything I had imagined possible.

So, in keeping with God’s incomparable sense of humor and timing, I launched my new law practice on April Fools’ Day 1999, sailing faithfully into an unknown realm under the hopeful banner “Practical Counsel—Christian Perspective.”

Over the years since, I have worked and prayed to discover a truly Christian perspective on the law, and to discern biblical principles with practical application to the real-life situations faced by my clients. I have encountered some successes and some failures. Through my own weakness, I have missed many opportunities to glorify God. But in humbling myself before him, I have also been privileged to participate in some miraculous demonstrations of God’s strength and power. Being a sinner, saved only by God’s grace, I expect that the future will hold more of the same.

I offer this book to share some of the things I’ve learned so far. I pray that it will be an encouragement to the body of believers to live out the abundant life God promises. And I pray that it will serve as a warning to help us avoid some of the many traps and snares Satan has set for us in the legal system (a glimpse of hell itself in the minds of many reading this, I am sure!). Although written for nonlawyers, I trust that my fellow attorneys will be enlightened as well. I have encountered too many lawyers who publicly present themselves as Christians, but in practice are virtually indistinguishable from their secular peers. I believe God has something much better in mind for all of us.

May this book be a blessing to you.

Stephen L. Bloom, Esquire
Carlisle, Pennsylvania

The Believer’s Guide to Legal Issues
Copyright © 2008 by Stephen L. Bloom
Published by Living Ink Books, an imprint of AMG Publishers
6815 Shallowford Rd.
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37421
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in printed reviews, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (printed, written, photocopied, visual, electronic, audio, or otherwise) without the prior permission of the publisher.


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