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Friday, February 12, 2010

A Tale of Two Lawyers

I recently heard accounts of two lawyers who fared very differently in our challenging economy. The first lawyer was a partner in a large firm in a major city who specialized in appellate practice, including successfully arguing several cases before the United States Supreme Court. Although this attorney was gifted and prominent, by nature his practice did not involve rainmaking. When his firm was hit hard by the recession, the lawyer’s partners decided to let him go. Tragically, this lawyer committed suicide in his office on his last day of work.

The second lawyer has also been significantly affected by the recession, but in a very different way. He is a partner in a small firm in a small city. Recently, another attorney in a large firm in a neighboring metropolitan area referred a case to him. The referring attorney complained about how hard his firm had been hit by the recession, and then asked the lawyer how his business had been. The lawyer replied honestly that he had more business than ever before, literally more than he could handle. Dumbfounded, the referring attorney asked his secret, and the lawyer explained that he viewed his practice as a ministry, took a personal interest in his clients, spent quality time with them, and tried to serve their personal needs rather than just dispense legal advice. This lawyer’s reputation has spread quickly, and clients are knocking his door down.

I don’t want to judge the first lawyer too harshly, if at all, but I do believe such a tragic end is far more likely if we view our work as our sole or primary purpose in life, rather than a calling to serve others. 1 John 2:15-17 (NIV) warns,
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
An example of someone who loved the things of the world too much was the rich young ruler who went away sad when Jesus challenged him to give everything he owned to the poor and then follow Him (see Matthew 19:16-22). This fellow rejected an exclusive offer to follow the Lord of the universe simply because he would not let go of his material possessions.

How often do we do likewise, by elevating our personal or professional pursuits above Jesus’ command to meet the needs of the least among us? By contrast, the second lawyer described above is living out Christ’s calling to die to self and to be his body – literally, his hands and feet – serving a hurting world. Compelled by Christ’s love, this lawyer understands that he is not just an attorney, but a minister of reconciliation, serving the Gospel in furtherance of God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself and heal a hurting world (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). May we all see our vocation as an outgrowth and essential part of this ministry of reconciliation, rather than an end in itself.

~ Professor Michael V. Hernandez, Regent University School of Law

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