Why join a Christian law firm?
I write as Chairman of the Association of Christian Law Firms (ACLF). The ACLF was formed in October 1990 to provide a link between Christian law firms in the UK. Some member firms have been in practice for a considerable period but in recent years more Christian firms have been established.
The aims of the Association are to:
- Encourage co-operation and mutual support between members firms;
- Advance the Christian faith and promote learning in the law;
- Provide a forum for the dissemination of views and information affecting the law from a Christian viewpoint.
The ACLF works closely with the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and wishes to strengthen these links and to forge these with Christian law students and young lawyers too .
To be eligible for membership at least the equity partners (those who set the direction and policy of the firm) must be committed Christians, each signing an annual declaration that they wish to run their practices under the Lordship of Christ.
It is therefore a distinctive calling within the broader calling we all share as committed Christian lawyers.
Many of us have had experience of working in both Christian and non Christian practices. I, for my part, became a Christian whilst studying law at university and have worked in both Christian and non Christian environments. On qualifying I joined a Christian firm. That's where I grew as a Christian lawyer in my early years.
The death of two partners forced a merger with a firm whose partners weren't Christians. God blessed that, however, by bringing in trainees and assistants who were Christian and we all had a growing impact. Then something happened. I provisionally arranged a lunch hour seminar in the firm with a leading national speaker. I cancelled it however because the senior partner said he didn't want it. I discovered then just how much our choices matter. The effect wasn't immediate but the sense of blessing steadily diminished from that time on.
I was therefore glad to move to a firm where there's prayer and scriptural encouragement right at the heart of the practice, with most of the fee earning staff being Christians themselves. It's a real joy.
So I can see blessing and opportunity in the full range of legal environments but you may wish to explore the opportunities of being in a fully Christian partnership. THE purpose of this article is to assist you in thinking through those choices.
Possible attractions to joining (or indeed starting) a Christian firm include:
· the encouragement of fellowship in and around work, with prayer and scripture right at the heart of the practice;
· perhaps a greater space and freedom to really express yourself as a Christian in the work you do and to grow as a Christian lawyer;
· an enhanced opportunity to get involved in Christian projects and ventures;
· possibly greater opportunities for following through witness and testimony to clients. One of our member firms, for instance, holds 'Salt and Light' meetings after work for interested clients;
· a more specific sense of focus and leading both with regards to one's own work but also as to the policies and direction of the firm.
There are also potential disadvantages. These include the risk of insularity and complacency.
But these can be countered by having a policy of service to all in the name of Christ. Having such an aim keeps opening up opportunities for testimony to Christ and for prayer and sharing with clients. Consider 2 Corinthians 4:5 "For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." The servant emphasis means that we are open in service to all, irrespective of creed or lifestyle…but always as servants in Jesus' name.
Discrimination legislation can sometimes present difficulties, but our strength is to be open and definite as to the core ethos of the firm, and continue our Christian and social advocacy with, we hope, humble appeal. If we are open as Christians, those antagonistic to us will either stay away, or by God's grace be kept away.
Many of our members not only seek the general recruitment of able Christian staff but are concerned about practice succession issues and long for the firms they have built up over many years to stay strong in God and in God-directed hands when they retire. Many firms can therefore offer younger Christian lawyers good long-term prospects, full of Christian opportunity.
If any of this excites or challenges you, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ACLF's website – www.aclf.org.uk – and any of our members will be happy to talk through their experiences.
Robin Gambles, Chairman of the Association of Christian Law Firms