Paul L. Caron

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Cochran: Christianity And Law Practice

Robert F. Cochran, Jr. (Pepperdine; Google Scholar), Christianity And Law Practice, 13 J. Christian Legal Thought 20 (2023):

Journal of Christian Legal ThoughtA Christian perspective on law practice is grounded in basic Christian themes—Creation, Fall, wisdom, justice, and peace. God created humans in his image, with three significant implications for lawyers: (1) clients and other people who might be affected by legal representation are entitled to dignity; (2) business lawyers and clients exercise dominion—sometimes well, sometimes poorly—as God’s trustees in this world; and (3) lawyers bring the capacity for practical wisdom to legal representation.

The work of litigators is grounded in the Fall. Litigators are in the conflict business, and conflict typically arises when one or more parties act foolishly, selfishly, or both. Generally, litigators contribute to justice by playing a role in the adversary system. The hope is that their arguments on either side of an issue will help judges and juries reach wise, just decisions. Though business practice is a response to creation and litigation is a response to the fall, each system—like every human being and every earthly system—is influenced by both creation and fall. Business lawyers confront the fallen nature of humanity—lawyers and clients are tempted to exercise dominion in a selfish, unjust manner. And litigators may find possibilities for restoration—conflict may yield personal insight, forgiveness, and even reconciliation. Lawyers are also peacemakers: they draft agreements with an eye toward avoiding conflict, they counsel clients to comply with law, and they settle the vast majority of cases before trial. Litigation itself is an alternative to more violent means of resolving disputes. When lawyers and clients disagree over the morality of choices in legal representation, the lawyer may address the disagreement by some combination of the following: refusing representation, engaging in moral discourse with the client, or proceeding with the representation in the hope that the legal system will yield a just result.

The article is drawn from Bob's forthcoming book, The Servant Lawyer: Facing the Challenges of Christian Faith in Everyday Law Practice (InterVarsity Press Feb. 2024):

Servant LawyerMost lawyers, from Wall Street to the county seat, spend their days drafting documents, negotiating with other attorneys, trying cases, researching the law, and counseling clients. How does this everyday law practice relate to Jesus' call to follow him in servanthood?

With decades of experience in the law office, courtroom, and classroom, Robert F. Cochran Jr. explores Jesus' call on lawyers to serve both individual clients and the common good. Cochran pulls back the curtain with stories from his own career and from the legal community to address a wide range of challenges posed by law practice, including counseling clients, planning trial tactics, navigating tensions with coworkers, and handling temptations toward cynicism and greed. This honest and accessible book

  • shares wisdom from an experienced practitioner and master teacher
  • addresses real-world situations and relationships experienced by most lawyers
  • charts the way toward a truly Christian practice of everyday law

For students considering a career in law as well as for seasoned attorneys, The Servant Lawyer casts an encouraging vision for how lawyers can love and serve their neighbor in every facet of their work.

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