Thursday, June 30, 2005

Law as Vocation (and Cross)

I've been thinking a lot lately about law as a vocation. Back in medieval times, there were three great professions: physician, lawyer and clergyman, and I always kind of wondered why there was so much prestige and honor tied up with these careers. One day it occurred to me that it might be because these professions are especially "vocational," as in, they are especially tied to ultimate servanthood. More than any other profession, these I think are bound up with the Cross in their very natures - one must unite the sacrifice of these careers with the Cross for them to make any sense.

I know we talk about NDLS and creating a "different kind of lawyer." I've decided that this slogan really finds its meaning in the Passion of the Christ. A different kind of lawyer is one that sees his or her profession as one that involves a total self-giving or selflessness. Without that insight, the profession hardly makes sense. It is so unbelievably hard, and so incredibly sacrificial that someone who goes in it for the money would have to be insane. Sadly, this is what many do, and I feel that this is the reason for high suicide and alcoholism rates among attorneys.

So the "great" professions are really those that involve sacrifices most akin to Christ's Passion and Death. I don't know....I just thought it would be good to reflect on the nature of the profession. Thoughts?


At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Laura Coss said...

I'm no historian, but I'd guess that those 3 vocations, in particular, required on to be well-educated. In those times nearly noone knew how to read or write. In order to be one of those 3, you had to have had some education... which meant you were either very smart, or very rich. It turns out just about anybody can be a blacksmith... hence the lack of prestige. I am not sure it has anything to do with crosses.

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

You didn't have to be rich to be a priest, and you definitely didn't need an education - you got it when you entered the seminary.

C'mon Laura, if you're going to make a comment, think about it a little bit. I'll admit that these are "thinking" professions, but that's kind of my point. There is something vocational about using your thoughts as a sacrifice for others. It's kind of like giving your soul to people every day. I'm just asking everyone to think about why they're entering this profession, that's all.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok this is the real Laura Coss - I'd like to defend myself, that wasn't written by me. Honest. Swear on the backer.

At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are on to something subtle and implicit, and broader than simply the educational faculties of these professions. I would point to the following:

Christ is Priest, Prophet and King. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. And in the context of his earthly mission, he was, in addition to these things, a HEALER and a LAW GIVER.

Furthermore, each of these 'vocations' are explicitly focused on the circumstances of man's mortality. Physicians by virtue of preserving life. Lawyers by virtue of ensuring that life is protected in the practical order. Priests by sheparding that life to its eternal destiny.

In order to appreciate the significance of these earthly vocations, recourse to the truths revealed in Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection are certainly helpful.

Above all I would commend to anyone a careful reading of St. Thomas More's "The Sadness of Christ." More was a man you might call obsessed with the Passion. And he bore that out in his own death -- in service to life and to TRUTH.

At 8:54 PM, Anonymous Becky (orthodoxyeh) said...


Your comments are very helpful. I'm going to try and write a book or long essay on this topic. Could you give me an email address or name so that I can contact you?


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