Sharing Christ’s Love in the Courthouse

This guest post is written by Claire Duff.  Claire lives and practices law in Raleigh, N.C.

While I am confident that the Lord “called” me into the legal profession, I must confess that, at the time I initially made the decision to go to law school and pursue a legal career, I was not actively listening for or seeking out God’s will for my professional life.  That remained the case during law school and for the next few years that followed, despite the fact that I had been a believer for a number of years.

I had wanted to become a lawyer because that is what I knew – my dad had been a lawyer and my basic understanding was that he had been able to help people through his work.  That aspect was appealing to me, and so I set about trying to follow in his footsteps.  While my intentions were – for the most part – “good,” I pursued this career path in a manner that was centered on my being independent, self-reliant and merit-driven when it came to making decisions or taking certain actions. These were characteristics I believed would serve me well in life; they were what I thought it took to be successful.  By virtue of this self-focused type of pursuit, however; I realized upon later reflection that I had been holding the Lord at arm’s length, lost sight of His wisdom and guidance and kept Him in the distant background.  I had ultimately demoted God to an inferior position in my life, particularly when it came to making career decisions.

But by His infinite grace and mercy, He did not lose sight or hold of me during that time.  Rather, He continued pursuing me and drawing me back to him over the years that followed.  And He was incredibly patient while I tried to make things happen for myself and according to my own will.

My first job out of law school produced little fruit in the way of being able to provide help to and connect with people.  My work consisted of representing large, faceless corporations and was motivated by billing as many hours as humanly possible.  After three years of feeling utterly unfulfilled, disconnected and discouraged, I was desperate for a change.  It was there, in my desperation, that I began to surrender control back over to God.  And it was there that He showed up in a mighty way – He opened the door for a new job opportunity, a door into a type of work I had not previously considered.

For the past three years I have been working as one of several in-house attorneys for a local county government.  From day one, I have felt a connection to the people that our office serves and an appreciation for the public service work we perform as a whole.  And I have consistently experienced God’s presence in the midst of it all.

Though far from being a perfect job – and often wondering if I am truly cut out for the often cut-throat nature of law and litigation – I am constantly comforted and reassured that God has me right where he wants me, at least for now.  And that is because of my faith.  While it is not uncommon for me to feel uncomfortable, uneasy or “out of my element” in this job that the Lord has called me to, I am grateful for the work He has me doing and for the way in which I experience His presence.

It is my faith that drives how I communicate with and respond to others, such as opposing counsel, even in the midst of disagreements and negotiations.  It is what shapes how I conduct myself in court and when faced with adversaries and opposition.  And it is what comforts me when exposed to the very significant challenges that many of the people we serve face.  Things like poverty, homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.  Challenges that make what I encounter in my own little world pale in comparison.  Challenges that often appear hopeless.

In the legal setting, where things tend to be more adversarial by nature and where the people needing legal representation or government assistance often find themselves at their lowest points, it can be difficult for some to see where God fits in.  Some may even believe that He has no place at work – that the two should be kept separate.  But it is particularly in those rather trying moments of tense negotiations, adversarial encounters and heart-wrenching exposure that I seek to be a light for Christ.  It is particularly in those moments that I strive to show the love of Christ through the words that I speak and the manner in which I conduct myself.  And it is particularly in those moments that, if nothing else, I have the opportunity to pray to God, the source of all hope, for the individuals we serve who are facing such difficulties, that they would experience His peace and comfort even in the midst of their seemingly hopeless circumstances.