Why would you want to be a lawyer? Lawyers are liars.” This is what I heard several times when I declared at a young age that I wanted to become an attorney one day.
In the Adventist community I came from, honorable professions included teachers, pastors, doctors, nurses, engineers, accountants, and others, perhaps. But lawyers were viewed with high suspicion. Because of this, perhaps, I had no firsthand exposure to lawyers growing up. The first time I met an attorney, I was already a junior in high school. And the first impressions or insights I ever had of what lawyers do was via television programs: L.A. Law, Law and Order.
Despite misgivings about the profession in my church community, my boyhood commitment to being a lawyer did not die. I committed myself to its study. In the process, as I read lawyers’ arguments, I could appreciate the moral value that a career in law can have. I saw the life-changing power of making the right argument and using the right words to make that argument. I saw that it could determine some person’s course of life, and even change the direction of society in the most fundamental of ways. An example I still readily think of is the widely celebrated case of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was contrary to the nation’s founding principles to practice racial segregation in its public schools.
Once I graduated law school I set out on a somewhat singular path. Instead of apprenticeship as a law clerk to some judge or senior attorney, I decided to open my own practice from the beginning. I learned on the job, helping both myself and my clients to recognize the scope of issues involved in a given matter, and integrating all aspects of the issue so as to arrive at a coherent and comprehensive resolution of each subject’s case.
By personal experience I now enthusiastically declare to my Adventist church community that God can use lawyers. He is seeking to incorporate our skill sets and abilities to advance His plan of salvation. At pivotal moments in the lives of everyday individuals lawyers play a crucial role, representing their interests in the courtroom, before government agencies, in significant business transactions and litigation matters. Advocating for the interests of another, standing in the gap to defend their interest, is one of the most valued services that attorneys provide, a role that’s strongly biblical. Consider Abraham, negotiating with God for the lowest number of righteous people needed in Sodom to spare the cities of the plain. Abraham persuades God to move from a starting threshold of 50 righteous people all the way down to 10 (Gen. 18:16-33). And there’s Moses, standing in the gap for Israel, sparing them destruction despite their egregious idolatry insulting the God who delivered them from Egypt; advocacy that softens the heart of God Himself (Ex. 32:7-14).
The New Testament describes both Christ and the Holy Spirit as arguing our case, pleading on our behalf: “We have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1, NIV). And “the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26, NIV). Indeed, there is an abundance of Bible examples of the blessings that come from God advocating on behalf of His children. Advocacy is a God thing. He can utilize professionally trained advocates to advance His kingdom.
Today we observe an increasing frequency of natural disasters, wars and conflict, and political unrest, events pointing to Christ’s soon return. There is an increasing urgency that this gospel must be preached to all the world. People everywhere are desperately searching for truth, thirsting after peace, and yearning to fill that emptiness inside. Now more than ever before, God needs all available “hands on deck” for that final push to share Christ’s plan of redemption.
How can Adventist lawyers answer this call of action? We can be the hands and feet of Jesus when we demonstrate integrity in our duties, when we pursue justice for those who have no voice, and when we take a stand for truth, no matter the cost. I believe that at the end, when pastors are silenced, there will be Adventist attorneys standing before courtrooms around the world to advocate on behalf of fellow believers who will choose to follow God’s command, come what may, over the decrees of men. To be that effective witness when that time comes, we must singly and collectively establish a reputation that will give credibility to our final witness. God is looking for willing vessels. The Holy Spirit will utilize those persuasive communications skill sets to achieve results that will advance the cause of Christ beyond our capabilities or imagination. God will call on those who are willing and are not afraid to stand for Him.
Preparation for those consequential moments begins now. Our road map is laid out: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).