Specialization as a Lawyer
This lesson is part of Issues Christian Lawyers Face, a study guide produced by The Theology of Work Project in partnership with Steven Moe, for the New Zealand Christian Lawyers national conference in May 2017. Click the Table of Contents on the right of this page to see the entire curriculum.
There are a wide range of areas that a lawyer can choose to practise. The work that is done in those different areas often benefit different types of people.
Andrea has been cornered by an old friend that she hasn’t seen since University days. He recalls the time that she practised mooting with him as an audience and then asks, “So what’s it like standing up in Court with the Judge looking at you and defending the oppressed – do you ever get nervous”? Andrea looks away and considers which answer to give. She decides on the truth and says, “Well I don’t actually go to Court at all, it’s not like the TV shows … I am involved in residential conveyancing so I am mainly on the phone, answering emails, responding to questions…”. As she says this she can see a bit of disappointment on his face.
Walking home Andrea considers the other way that conversation usually goes - being asked for advice about an obscure legal issue because “you’re a lawyer so you must know the answer”. She takes a deep breath as she looks up through the trees above her at the stars just coming out. Conversations like the one tonight do make her wonder if she chose right way back when she was being interviewed for her first job. Should she have held out for a role in a firm which dealt with human rights and injustice which is what she had always thought she would do? Now it felt a bit late with 10 years doing conveyancing and she isn’t sure there will ever be the opportunity to switch.
Questions for Discussion:
- What do you identify with in this story, and why?
- How did you decide what to specialise in and what advice would you give those at an early stage of their careers?
- Is there more or less value in the different types of work done as a lawyer?
- Does our Christian faith inform our decision about the area we specialise in?
Career specialization happens in the Bible, for the same reasons it happens today. Some people get careers based on their unique gifts, like the apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers in Ephesians 4:11. But many heroes in the Bible had jobs that were dictated by circumstances rather than soul-searching. Jacob worked as a shepherd because he was after a girl (Genesis 29:20) and also perhaps because shepherding was the only game in town. Joseph worked as a butler (Genesis 39:4), as a prison warden (Genesis 39:22), and then as an agricultural planner (Genesis 41:41), none of which he chose for himself. Nevertheless, he performed all his duties in a way that demonstrated that the Lord was with him.
Scripture restates this last point, that any job can be divinely important if you do it for God’s benefit:
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters.
Discuss: What are the key principles from this study that could be applied in your situation?
For more on career choices, read the Theology of Work Project long form article on vocation and calling.