The legal profession is often viewed as one filled with people who place worldly success above all else. The lawyers are just interested in making money and feeding their egos, and in doing so they sell their souls in pursuit of their own selfish desires.
In all walks of life and in all lines of work there is good and evil, and the legal profession is no different. However, to paint the entire legal profession with a broad brush as evil is not fair, and generally is not the view most people have. Of course, it is fun to make lawyer jokes and I have heard them all, including the firm name jokes, such as the business law firm of Dewey, Cheatim and Howe and the family law firm of Dicher, Quick and Run.
But the truth is that a vast majority of the lawyers I have come across in my 30 years of practice take their role as lawyers very seriously and hold to a high moral standard that our profession demands and expects of all lawyers. Some of us actually view the practice of law as a higher calling and one that is charted out by the Lord in order to fulfill the plans that He has established for us.
So with that background, it should come as no surprise that there is a national organization known as the Christian Legal Society with about 53 local chapters in the United States which connect and network with between 15,000 and 20,000 lawyers. In addition, there are about 90 chapters and fellowships on law school campuses, which connect over 3,000 students, and 45 Christian legal aid clinics that the Christian Legal Society either operates or is affiliated with across the country, meeting the needs of over 32,000 people.
The Christian Legal Society’s mission is to fulfill the command of Micah 6:8 by inspiring, encouraging, and equipping its member attorneys and law school students to dedicate themselves to serving Jesus Christ through the practice and study of law, the defense of religious freedom and life, and the provision of legal aid to the needy.
After learning of this organization, I along with a small group of local lawyers, Rich Carlucci, Gary Griffith, Clem Lisitski, Pat Martin and Dan Reeves, have been blessed to be given the opportunity to form the only New Jersey chapter of the Christian Legal Society here in Cape May County. We aim to carry out the mission of the national organization and in doing so shine the light of Jesus to help overcome the shadows of darkness that have been cast over our profession for several years.
Because we are advocates for our clients, there is always someone on the other side who views us as the “mouthpiece” for our clients, thus when our clients are hated by their adversaries we are equally hated by them. Then when it doesn’t work out the way our clients want, we may be hated by our clients as well. Sometimes we as lawyers make things worse, or at a minimum make them more complicated than they need to be.
On the other hand, we do many good things for our clients and community by helping people resolve disputes, enter into business transactions, buy or sell a home, minimize tax obligations, provide for an orderly disposition of assets at someone's death, and help those who have been wronged by obtaining justice.
But in all the good things we do, the most joy that I get, and I can probably speak for many other lawyers, is when I can help those who are homeless, oppressed, elderly, terminally ill, destitute or heartbroken following the loss of a loved one. Sometimes the best help we can give is not in providing legal services, but in showing the love of Christ by having compassion for them, caring for them, and occasionally sharing the gospel and praying with them.
This joy in all of the turmoil which I try to share with clients is the joy that one gets when they know that no matter how hard things may be on this side of heaven, the Lord is working on us, in us and through us to fulfill His holy purpose. The Book of James sums it up best where the apostle James wrote:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
So with these guiding biblical principles and the mission of the Christian Legal Society as motivating factors, our small group has now grown to 10 members and we anticipate increases in membership so that we can be brighter lights in this county and state.
As lawyers who follow Jesus, we strive to obey the law of Christ first and foremost, which is to love God with all of one's heart, mind, soul and might, and love others as oneself. This was also stated somewhat differently by the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:2, where he wrote, “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Interestingly, our professional code of conduct is fairly consistent with what the Bible teaches us about morality, integrity, honesty and respect for all of mankind, and it pretty much follows the law of Christ. Unfortunately, there are a few lawyers who stray from these basic principles and give our profession a bad reputation.
So our goal in the Cape May County Chapter of the Christian Legal Society is to continue to shine the light of Jesus by following His teachings in all that we do as lawyers, fellowship with each other and most importantly speak to God through prayer so that we can follow the path that He wants us to take as we proceed on our journey as foot soldiers of Christ. As we do this we will do the good works that He has already planned for us, good works from God, not for God.
Anthony P. Monzo is an attorney in Court House and is the president of the Cape May County Chapter of the Christian Legal Society. For more information about the Christian Legal Society, go to www.christianlegalsociety.org.