Spirituality:Law School

Another great entry in the freq.uenci.es: a collaborative genealogy of spirituality project is the entry Law School. If asked to situate spirituality, many tend to imagine a new age book shop or yoga studio-not law school. This essay cuts right to the correct cultural situations that generate spirituality by focusing on law school.

According to this entry, people in law school can feel repressed and needed something beyond and aspirational, something to give meaning to life. Spirituality offers the redemption and meaning in life. A spirituality that is not other worldly, but one that focuses on the real issues in life is most helpful, such as Evangelicals or Centrist Orthodoxy. One can now feel that one is practicing a religious approach to the legal career or religious advocacy. The religious conviction gives one a sense of that one’s work has a moral dimension.

To put it in broader and less urbane terms, If you gave someone a choice of becoming a doctor, lawyer or accountant, and they fell trapped by the choice. The acceptance of Centrist Orthodoxy transforms the life into one of meaning and moral order. If one finds law school a track of value-less careerism, cut-throat ethics, and dehumanizing tedium, then the leap into the halakhic covenental community conveys a sense of meaning to this activity. One’s moral sensitivity and community values come from one’s religious community. That personal need for evangelicalism or Centrism is spirituality. The author uses as his moral exemplar the progressive lawyer-theologian William Stingfellow (d. 1985) who showed how relgion makes a difference in one’s legal career. But for many this epiphany will just be pixie dust sprinkled over a value-less dehumanizing career, providing more solace than ethics.

It is worth noting that even though the article uses Christian and Pauline references, the author was associated with the Jewish law project at Cordozo.

Law School –Jeremy Kessler
When I began law school in 2008, both evangelicalism and law school attendance were on the rise in the United States. Though these trends generally got covered in different corners of the newspaper, I came to suspect a secret connection. A year or two at a fine American law school can leave the most hard-bitten among us longing for rebirth. St. Paul once wrote: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” It will come as no surprise to even the most unbiblical law student that Paul was once an attorney himself. Law school can cramp, as stilted policy discussions and four-hour exams chock full of outlandish narratives of wrongdoing seem unequal to the pleasures and pain of being human. Who we are gets buried beneath what we do. Pressed upon by prescribed forms, the doubtful legal journeyman or woman longs to break on through, to speak in tongues, to be born again.

Thanks to Paul, law students can rely on a strong precedent should they have a change of heart. If my generation seems to have a particular passion for law school, that may disguise a deeper passion for conversion.

In the complaints of the soon-to-be-professional, there always remains a glimmer of expectancy: Perhaps I will be transformed. Perhaps the law is not the final form my life will take—it may only be the shaping flame. Such a wayfarer takes the bar and trusts in grace.

Betting on epiphany is an old American tradition.

William Stringfellow, a great American lawyer and theologian, offered plenty of ammunition to the spiritually-dissatisfied law student. Yet he also criticized the flight from reality that frequently accompanies frustration with legal drudgery

“Contemporary spirituality,” he explained, could only offer cheap escape from the here-and-now, not an alternative response to the human complexity with which legal systems must struggle. Where both legal education and contemporary spirituality went wrong, in his mind, was their idolization of personal efficacy at the expense of the true effectiveness of the Word of God.

Throughout his life, Stringfellow contrasted “legal” advocacy with “biblical” advocacy, and “contemporary” spirituality with “biblical” spirituality. Biblical advocacy and biblical spirituality were really one and the same thing—a form of politics that recognized God as the only legitimate actor on the world stage.

A new movement called “religious lawyering” is looking to bring something like Stringfellow’s biblical outlook to the halls of law schools and governments nationwide. The trans-denominational movement emerged in the 1990s, and there are now several professional organizations (such as the Christian Legal Society and the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists) and institutes at Pepperdine and Fordham Law Schools devoted to integrating individual faith with legal practice. No longer does Paul need to leave his career behind. Religious lawyers, however, are not missionaries; they do not seek to propagate religious observance through their legal work. Rather, they hope to bring the moral sensitivity they cherish in their faith traditions to the complex human relationships that structure their professional lives.

In the words of one of the movement’s eloquent defenders, the law professor Robert Vischer, “The concrete differences religious lawyering will make will tend to involve relational differences—i.e., seeing the client not simply as a source of predetermined legal instructions, but as a fellow human faced with circumstances brimming with moral significance.”
Although a legal education can serve the young crusader well, it is better at inducing spiritual crises than resolving them. Read the rest here.

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