December 28, 2009

A Dress Code for Christian Lawyers: Timeless Fashion Tips

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. - Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

What are you wearing to the law office in 2010?

Here's some timeless fashion advice for Christian lawyers striving to make the ultimate best dressed list, what to put on, what to take off:

Put on: Compassion
Take off: Self-centered "me first" stuff

Put on: Kindness
Take off: Meanness, pettiness, bitchiness, attitude

Put on: Humility
Take off: Pride, fantasies of always being right, bloated self-esteem

Put on: Gentleness
Take off: Arrogance, bossiness, manipulativeness, head-games, control-freak tactics, physical domination, violence

Put on: Patience
Take off: Anger, grudges, bitterness

And the one must-have accessory, the one essential thing to tie your whole look together?

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3:14 (NIV)

Put on: Love

Which ripped, stained, worn, out-of-style clothes will you pitch from your legal wardrobe in 2010?

December 22, 2009

Christian Lawyer: Do you know what race you're running?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. - Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Call it a mission, a vision, a purpose, a road map, whatever. The name doesn't matter, but having it does. Without a plan for your career as a Christian lawyer, you risk finding yourself lost or spinning in circles of meaninglessness.

The stakes are high. The temptations are strong. So now's the time to invest in some serious prayer and conversation to work out a simple set of parameters to guide you through your Christian legal career in freedom and victory.

A few years ago, I prayerfully developed this vision for myself:

To be a lawyer busily engaged in a unique, highly visible, evangelistic ministry of speaking, teaching, and writing which encourages, equips, and challenges people to incorporate Biblical Christian values and perspectives into their life decisions.

Simple as it sounds, I can't adequately express what a profound and powerful impact this statement has had on my entire life and career. It serves as a filter, to help me weed out all those demands (both the good and the bad) that detract from my core mission, and as a reality check, to force me into positive action.

What helps (or hinders) your vision for life as a Christian lawyer?

December 12, 2009

The 7 Things Lawyers are Afraid to Say

Call it cultural conditioning, call it arrogance, call it survival, but there are seven things lawyers are afraid to say. What happens if you break these taboos? We're going to find out, but first read the list:

1) I don't know.

2) I was wrong.

3) I'm terrified.

4) I've never done this before.

5) I don't have enough work.

6) Other stuff is more important to me than my legal career.

7) I'm not the smartest person in the room.

Now, go back and read the list again, only this time, say each phrase aloud, in your normal speaking voice. No "saying it in your head" or whispering under your breath. Say the words, like you mean them.

After you've done this, please comment. Not before. If you don't do this, you're not allowed to comment.

What was it like?

December 10, 2009

Top Legal Blogs: Christian Edition

"No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a washtub or shoves it under the bed. No, you set it up on a lamp stand so those who enter the room can see their way. We're not keeping secrets; we're telling them. We're not hiding things; we're bringing everything out into the open. So be careful that you don't become misers of what you hear. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes." - Luke 8:16-18 (The Message)

Avvo's closely watched Top Legal Blogs daily updates a growing master list of 418 blawgs based on moving 30-day averages of their Alexa traffic rankings.

On today's Avvo list, only five of the 22 blawgs of interest for Christian lawyers to which I link under my "Of Counsel" heading on the right sidebar of this blawg are included: Religion Clause - #96; Is There a Lawyer in the Church? - #349 (mine, for non-lawyers); Shark and Shepherd - #352; The Center Blog - #364; and Ninomania - #401. This blawg, The Believer's Guide to Legal Issues, also appears, at #382.

Fellow Christian blawgers, don't hide your light! Avvo provides an email address,, for you to inquire about adding your own blawg to the Top Legal Blogs list. Both times I've contacted Avvo to add one of my blawgs, the process was as simple as sending the email and the listing was added within 24 hours.

Are there other blawg ranking sites you find useful? 

Other blawgs specially relevant to Christian lawyers I should consider linking here? 

December 7, 2009

Political Correctness in the Balance: Law Student Group Gains Supreme Court Review of Alleged Anti-Christian Discrimination by UC Hastings

Christian legal fellowship groups provide a vital spiritual lifeline for law students trying to survive the rigors of law school with faith intact. Most of the more than 150 such student groups at U.S. law schools (see my lower sidebar list of links) are sponsored by the Christian Legal Society (CLS). But the ability of these groups to continue functioning at public universities has been in doubt since the University of California Hastings College of the Law's recent refusal to recognize its CLS chapter. The law school objects to the group's requirement that officers and voting members subscribe to Christian beliefs.

In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez the district judge ruled in favor of the law school. CLS appealed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to reverse. CLS then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, in a press release issued by its Center for Law & Religious Freedom, CLS announced that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

From the Center's press release: “Public universities shouldn’t single out Christian student groups for discrimination. All student groups have the right to associate with people of like-mind and interest,” said Senior Counsel Kim Colby with the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “We trust the Supreme Court will not allow Hastings to continue to deprive CLS of this right by forcing the group to abandon its identity as a Christian student organization.”

CLS has posted links to the full set of litigation documents and related materials.

Have you encountered anti-Christian bias as a lawyer or law student?

December 6, 2009

It's Sunday: You Get the Day Off!

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don't do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day. - Exodus 20:8-11 (The Message)

I receive the Sabbath as a gift from God, a blessing I've learned to accept with deep gratitude.

For me, this means no legal work on Sundays.

Is this always easy? No. Are there Sundays when the gravity of my upcoming week looms urgently? Yes. Have I ever regretted deferring even the most pressing tasks until Monday morning? No.

I don't see the Sabbath as a legalistic thing. I'm not saying you should be wracked with guilt if you check your office email or ponder a case plan on a Sunday afternoon. I've done that a few times myself. In general though, I've learned not to go there, because it spoils the gift.

Honoring the Sabbath opens the day for worship, learning, serving, family, and just plain pausing to appreciate all God has done. God knows we need this. He tells us we need this. And he gives this to us.

I credit Sabbath-keeping in large part for a 22-year legal career in which I'm still relatively enthusiastic about the practice of law and looking forward to decades more. And I credit Sabbath-keeping in large part for my close relationships with God, my family, and my church family.

How do you embrace the gift of the Sabbath?

December 3, 2009

The law profs have a verdict, but what say you, practicing lawyer? Essential reads for Christian law students

Over at Redeeming Law there's a new Essential Law Student Reading List, assembled via informal poll of Christian law professors. It's a great list, I'm sure, but quite honestly way over my head. Law professors must always display their immense intellectual fire power, and their list is explosive, if you like long difficult reads.

As for me, of the more than 50 impressive titles listed, I've read only six (only five if you don't count the Bible).

Two decades into law practice, I'm to the point where I can barely focus long enough to read an overly wordy blog post. The chances of me reading too many more of the law professor-endorsed essential books are pretty slim. But I still love to read and learn. Even in chunks bigger than 140 characters. And I know many law students still like to read too.

So I'm wondering, what would my fellow practicing Christian lawyers consider essential reads for law students? What are the "must read" books and blogs to help law students successfully integrate their Christian faith with the practice of law?

From the law prof list, there are two I strongly endorse: Allegretti's classic The Lawyer's Calling and Schutt's more recent Redeeming Law. Both are encouraging and reasonably accessible.

What reads do you recommend?

December 2, 2009

I'm having fun practicing law because...

A few key steps I've taken over the years to make practicing law not only tolerable, but reasonably fun:

1. Embrace RISK (like choosing to leave secure but constraining partnership)

2. Exercise DISCRETION (like saying "no" to bad cases and bad clients, where bad is however you define bad)

3. Maintain INTEGRITY (like being the same person in the law office as everywhere else, including home and church)

4. Be INTENTIONAL (like making time for activities and pursuits more important to you than lawyering, no matter what)

5. Humble yourself in PRAYER (like when the challenges you face seem too overwhelming, or you start thinking you can do it all on your own) 

What helps keep law practice fun for you?

December 1, 2009

With CLE topics like this, it's no wonder lawyers are depressed

Why do so many attorneys struggle with mental health issues like depression?

The possible causes are many: pressure, deadlines, competition, burnout, etc. Or maybe it's just CLE?

I opened a promotional mailer today from the good folks at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute (and they really are good folks - I've been privileged to serve on their faculty a couple of times) and was greeted with these uplifting CLE course options:

The Dead Man's Rule 

Death and Taxes

Hot Topics in Oil and Gas Law

Seriously, I don't care who you are or how happy you were, if you spent three days attending this trio of seminars, you'd be reaching for the anti-depressants!

What less-than-exhilarating CLE topics are being offered in your jurisdiction?