Sunday, July 20, 2008
At the LWI conference last week, Professor Ted Becker from the University of Michigan gave a thought-provoking presentation on Religious Lawyering and Legal Writing, or, Do Religious Perspectives Help Teach Students Anything about IRAC?
He first gave the audience a helpful summary of the Religious Lawyering movement and its major schools of thought. He explained how some lawyers keep any religious practices they may have quite separate from their law practices, while others prefer to integrate the two. In terms of a legal writing class, this topic might come up when students discuss professionalism, particularly if the legal writing professor includes a direct look at legal ethics in class.
Ted also suggested that in addition to general professionalism concerns, the Religious Lawyering movement informs more specifically how lawyers work with clients. Through the media, many law students are familiar with the lawyer as godfather, hired gun, or guru. Ted explained that religious lawyers may tend to work with the client more as a "friend" -- in the Aristotelian sense of the word. Looked at this way, the attorney-client relationship moves from one of contract to one of covenant. It becomes a relationship in which trust flows in two directions, the work takes place in the context of a larger moral community, and the rapport will be enduring. Thus students can be made aware that the model rules of professional conduct are a minimum standard, and they can be encouraged to do more than the minimum required.
Finally, Ted discussed how Religious Lawyering may create issues in particular for students who take jobs after graduation in "Big Law." Working in large law firms, some religious lawyers face a difficult decision as to whether to stay in or get out. And legal writing professors may be teaching students who will eventually face this decision.