12 November 2008

With Great Power (Part 2)

In yesterday's post I talked about the power that lawyers, by virtue of their profession, have and the responsibility to use that power for the good of all. I also talked about how the legal profession tends to be rather unethical, as a result of the way that law school is taught. Today I want to talk about what that means for anyone trying to be a Catholic, and a lawyer.

There are some days when I feel like a Catholic cannot be a lawyer and remain a Catholic. For example, I had a professor tell a class that "There will be times when your personal values conflict with what your client wants you to do. As long as it isn't against the law and doesn't violate your professional obligations, you should do what your client wants. Even if you have a personal ethical dilemma, you need to remember it's not about you; it's about what the client wants. You have a duty to do what the client wants." I've had several Profs tell me that, and spoken with enough practitioners to see that it is going to be an issue throughout my career.

I just don't know how that can be reconciled with my Catholic faith. If I believe that something is wrong, because that's what my faith teaches, how can I help my client do that, even if it is not illegal? As a lawyer, I will have both ethical obligations to serve my client, and the duty to live out my Catholic faith. Obviously my faith has to come first, but what does that mean to my legal career? That is the issue that I seem to be wrestling with.

I think an example is needed, and the best one I can come up with is family law. I know that I am going to be required to do some family law in my first few years, and that will include some divorces. However, I also know that JPII stated that Catholic lawyers should refrain from aiding in divorces. How can I help a couple divorce when I believe, as a matter of faith, that nothing we do on earth can set aside a union blessed and created by God?

And yet, I feel that law is what I am supposed to do with my life. I believe my prof was right when he said we will have a lot of power and can do a lot of good. So, I guess that means I will just have to keep going, and when ethical dilemmas arise, I will have to trust that God will show me a way through the dilemma. But, as I told a classmate in my first year, my faith comes first, and I will not compromise it. Not for anyone or anything.

I realize these two posts have been rather personal and lack a lot of practical value. What I hope the readers can take from this is the importance of knowing your lawyer, and knowing where they stand on ethical issues. There are lawyers who are unethical, and you don't want them representing you. When you choose a lawyer, remember that you are the one hiring the lawyer, not the other way around. Feel free to question them, and give them hypothetical scenarios to figure out where they stand. It's your right to know where they stand, so you can know where you stand. This advice applies to any professional you deal with- accountants, dentists, doctors etc. The other thing you need to remember is to never give people more power than they deserve. Just because someone is a professional, or in a position of authority, is no reason to simply accept what they say. Question everything, and never let anyone brush you off without answering your questions.

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