A Calling

Posted: January 12, 2010 in Justice, Lessons

I enjoyed our introductory class in Ethical Lawyering this morning. In particular, Professor Childress’s discussion about what constitutes a “profession” seemed to make people uncomfortable in the way I like people being uncomfortable. Asking why we really want to be lawyers and calling the response To Make Money on the carpet made for an interesting class.

Our attention was drawn to a definition of a “profession” by Roscoe Pound in 1953 which said, “The term refers to a group . . . pursuing a learned art as a common calling in the spirit of public service—no less a public service because it may incidentally be a means of livelihood. Pursuit of the learned art in the spirit of a public service is the primary service.”

I like it. Not everyone did.

I have struggled with an answer to why I want to be a lawyer in the same I way I struggled with why I wanted to be a preacher (and, before that, a teacher/coach). I can understand why folks may think I can never seem to land on a permanent occupation (mostly because I never seem to land on a permanent occupation), but I can honestly say that within the past year I have become comfortable with a personal answer. And although I like the Pound definition above, I have come to prefer seeing my life in terms of a “vocation” rather than a “profession” or “occupation.”

Admittedly, vocation is primarily defined as an occupation, but I prefer its secondary definition: “An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.”

For about fifteen years now, although my occupation has changed a couple of times, my vocation has remained the same. And I see my vocation—my calling—as Justice.

As a teacher/coach, and later as a preacher, my calling was necessarily pursued after hours through being a houseparent at Children’s Homes, through founding a couple of Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and through becoming a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children. Preaching allowed me to blur the lines between occupation and vocation (Hurricane Katrina even allowed me to practice full-time for a short while!), but my sad conclusion that Justice was not primary to the formalized practice of the Christian religion in our culture (what we call Church) led in large part to what is another career change.

But I came to law school not simply to enter a new occupation or profession; instead, I am here to find a new venue in which to practice a calling that I’ve been about for years now.

It feels really good to be able to see that now.

  1. wjcsydney says:

    A convicting post, Al.

  2. Terry says:

    “… my sad conclusion that Justice was not primary to the formalized practice of the Christian religion in our culture (what we call Church)…”

    How sad it is that you’re not still preaching (regularly, anyway). But preaching’s loss is a win for barristering. (Or are those the people that make fancy coffee?)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s