Thursday, November 18, 2021
Benjamin C. Carpenter (St. Thomas), A Letter to Students on the Meaning of Work and Professional Formation, 17 U. St. Thomas L.J. ___ (2021):
The law is a wonderful profession—one that provides opportunities for individuals to make a formative difference in people’s lives, to work with talented colleagues and against skilled opponents, to earn the respect of others, and to make a generous income while doing so. However, it is also the profession with the highest rates of substance abuse, anxiety, and depression among its members—particularly for attorneys within their first ten years of practice. While the rewards of practicing law can be great, so too can be the demands and, at times, the costs. Finding one’s place within the profession while navigating the challenges is a difficult process for all lawyers. In particular, how will one respond when their professional choices or actions challenge their deeply held (but perhaps previously untested) views of themself? Ultimately, how does one reconcile who they are as a lawyer with who they are as a person? We all search for meaning in our work. We all struggle with the tension between maximizing comfort and maximizing impact. We all struggle to reconcile our various roles—as an advocate, colleague, mentor, parent, spouse, child, and friend.
And we all fall short from time to time. These reflections, written from a Christian perspective but intended as a letter to all law students discerning their future, address the concept of calling, the inherent value of work, what constitutes the “right” work, and the limits of work.