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DISCOVERING JOY IN THE LAW (PART III)

by Brent Amato

The 2017 CLS National Conference theme is Discovering Joy in the Law. Our devotionals will concentrate on the theme of "joy" through October.

If only…!

The lawyer thinks, “If only I didn’t have to deal with (i) some of my lawyer adversaries who have no sense of professional civility, respect or basic courtesy, (ii) judges who control my life schedule, and (iii) some of my clients who have no clue of the value I bring to their legal issues, who expect the best possible – even if unrealistic – result from my endeavors on their behalf, and argue about my bills and pay, if at all, at their whim.”

The law partner thinks, “If only I didn’t have to deal with (i) other partners and lawyers in my firm who are of no help or encouragement to me, (ii) partners in meetings that love to drone on long, boring and sometimes divisive and acrimonious discourses, and (iii) some partners who are obsessively focused on billable hours and profit margins to the exclusion of quality of life.”

The associate attorney thinks, “If only I didn’t have to deal with (i) partners who have no clue about the stress on me (trying to span a huge learning curve, learning the culture of the firm, and trying to seek some balance in life beyond billable hours) and (ii) my fellow associates who could demonstrate a little more of that fellowship and little less competition on the ‘partnership track.’”

The law student thinks, “If only I didn’t have to deal with (i) law students who, unlike me, appear to have their ‘law school act’ totally together and seem more motivated by competition and (ii) law professors who are extremely boring or intimidating and don’t care.”

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on the book of Philippians, Be Joyful, identified four “joy-stealers” – circumstances, people, things (tangible and intangible), and worry. Consider the people mentioned above in the lives of attorneys and law students. Can there be joy in the practice or study of law in spite of those people? Based on Philippians, Wiersbe says, “Yes” and suggests that the key to such joy is the “submissive mind” (Philippians 2:3-4).

What do you think of when you hear the word “submission?” It does not mean degrading yourself, denying your gifts and talents, discounting the good in your life, doing everything that others want you to do, or never taking yourself into account. Rather, submission involves “humility of mind” (Philippians 2:3), a proper perspective about ourselves (Romans 12:3), and being a “bond-servant for Jesus’ sake” (II Corinthians 4:5).

Consider Jesus. Notwithstanding His position, He thought of others and not Himself (Philippians 2:5-6). But thinking of others is not enough; there must be some practical application. Jesus served and sacrificed for others to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8).

Paul lived and taught joy in spite of people. Faced with the Roman authorities and soldiers who guarded him and all the Jewish and Gentile critics and schemers trying to discredit or kill him, he penned these practical guidelines for the submissive mind and joy (Philippians 2:12-18):

  1. Start with God’s role in all this: “God at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
  2. We should expect challenging people in our lives and, notwithstanding this, prove ourselves blameless and a light to such people (Philippians 2:15). This includes the exhortation to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14).
  3. Remember your “work [the practice of law]” will not be in vain (Philippians 2:16b).
  4. The submissive mind leads to joy (Philippians 2:17b-18).

A lot to consider, but simply put, the acronym of the word “joy” directs how to prioritize your relationships:

Jesus

Others

You

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Brent Amato is the CLS Chicagoland Coordinator and former CLS national president and board member. He meets with lawyers, law students, and other professionals in the law in and around Chicago. He also is looking for others like himself to train and do the same work in other big cities.