Doing Well by Doing Good
Doing Well by Doing Good
The Application of Ignatian Principles to Legal Education
Abstract and Keywords
In this chapter, justice is not affiliated with any specific campaign for rights; it is a much broader concept than legal ethics or even morality. This idea of justice, rather, is less concerned with the day-to-day conduct of lawyers and whether they are ethical than it is with whether lawyers, through their work, bring peace to clients and resolve contentious issues in a manner that respects the integrity and needs of all. A just result in a legal dispute may be one in which the exploitation of one person by another may be ended or averted but it is also the manner in which the legal dispute was resolved: at the end of the process, do the putative exploiter and exploitee believe that they were respected in the process and, to the extent possible, their needs fulfilled? This result brings about mutual understanding and harmony and, more importantly, promotes a lasting peace where one side or the other is not chafing at a result they believe fails to respect their integrity. This concept of justice is not taught in most law school classrooms. This article charts one path by which reflective practices aimed at promoting justice can be integrated into the law school experience and carried into the legal profession.
Before delving into the use of reflective practices—such as the Spiritual Exercises developed by Ignatius of Loyola—by law schools and their students, it is helpful to examine the goal of their use. Simply put, the goal is justice. Seeking justice is a good fit for law schools and law students. Perhaps no other field of academic endeavor is as closely intertwined with justice as legal education. Legal education, at a minimum, instructs students in legal and ethical duties to their clients, the judicial system, and the public. It is a rare law school that does not profess to promote justice and all law schools—secular and faith-based—offer courses that examine principles of justice across a variety of legal fields and disciplines, such as human rights and economics. While reasonable minds can disagree about the justice of various social and legal causes, one principle espoused by Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ (2004), is that “justice … involves giving to the people what belongs to the people and struggling to uproot injustice and exploitation, and to establish a new earth, wherein the life of the new human may be possible.”
As conceived of in this article, justice is not affliated with any specific campaign for rights and is a much broader concept than legal ethics or even morality. This idea of justice, rather, is less concerned with the day-to-day conduct of lawyers and whether they are ethical than it is with whether lawyers, through their work, bring peace to clients and resolve contentious issues in a manner that respects the integrity and needs of all. A just result in a legal dispute may be one in which the exploitation of one person by another may be ended or averted but it is also the manner in which the legal dispute was resolved: at the end of the process, do the putative exploiter and exploitee believe that they were respected in the process and, to the extent possible, their needs fulfilled? This result brings about mutual (p.181) understanding and harmony and, more importantly, promotes a lasting peace where one side or the other is not chafing at a result they believe fails to respect their integrity. This concept of justice is not taught in most law school classrooms. This article charts one path by which reflective practices aimed at promoting justice can be integrated into the law school experience and carried into the legal profession.
The Relevance of Ignatius to Law Students
This article is not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on the Spiritual Exercises; instead, it offers selections from the Spiritual Exercises that may be most vital for law students. Others have commented with great depth and accuracy regarding the writings and teachings of St. Ignatius. What is striking about the Spiritual Exercises is how, across the centuries, they seem to be directed at law students. In Spiritual Exercise 176, Ignatius could have been describing the quintessential law school experience as “a time of alternating certainties and doubts, of exhilarating strength and debilitating weakness, of consolation and of desolation.” Ignatius teaches law students to embrace their fears: “As a matter of fact, this time is very privileged, because the discernment of spirits which is called for is an entrance into understanding a language of God spoken within our very being … [w]e can gain much light and understanding from the experience of consolation and desolation, and so this time, too, is very special for decision making.” Rather than instilling a sense of shame or reproach in law students who may find themselves spiritually desolate, Ignatius encourages them to pause to reflect deeply on how they feel when they are spiritually desolate and, in particular, to contrast those feelings with how they feel when they experience consolation. Spiritual Exercise 317 recognizes that, without experiencing desolation, there can be no consolation: “the thoughts of rebelliousness, despair, or selfishness which arise at the time of desolation are in absolute contrast with the thoughts of the praise and service of God which flow during the time of consolation.” Law students could recognize that, to borrow from Dante, embracing and reflecting upon their own “dark night of the soul” using the Spiritual Exercises can lead to a brighter future (Gilmore 2009, 357).
(p.182) One other application of the Spiritual Exercises to law students lies in their capacity to remind law students of the gifts they bring to the world and to foster a worldview centered on gratitude, trust, and stewardship. With rare exceptions, law students are smart, attentive, Type A overachievers. They have excelled academically and often in other ways and risen to the top of their peers. They often believe that their success is solely attributed to their drive and natural abilities. A tendency among law students is to reject their sense of giftedness and to lose touch with how special they are. In a sense, law students become ungrateful for the gifts with which they are blessed and either denigrate those gifts by failing to recognize them or fail to use them to their full potential. In a letter to Fr. Simon Rodrigues, Ignatius wrote that, “ingratitude is the most abominable of sins” (Young, 55). If law students had a better sense that their gifts came from God and were shaped and molded by their hard work and perseverance, law students might be more grateful for those gifts and embrace more fully the call to serve God in their daily lives as attorneys.
Finally, in a passage that could be quoted by career services personnel at law schools, Spiritual Exercise 16 addresses the internal division facing law students between material gain and service to others head-on:
If we feel a disorder in our attachment to a person, to a job or position, to a certain dwelling place, a certain city, country, and so on, we should take it to the Lord and pray insistently to be given the grace to free ourselves from such disorder. What we want above all is the ability to respond freely to God, and all other loves for people, places, and things are held in proper perspective by the light and strength of God’s grace.
So, too, can law students use the Spiritual Exercises to take their disordered and mixed attachments to God in a search for grace and perspective. The Spiritual Exercises can help law students turn away from a self-centered life and recognize that, as noted in Spiritual Exercise 314, “when we are caught up in a life of sin or perhaps even if we are closed off from God in only one area of our life, the evil spirit is ordinarily accustomed to propose a slothful complacency in the status (p.183) quo or to entice to a future of ever greater pleasures still to be grasped.” If law students are afforded the grace, through the Spiritual Exercises, to gain a more long-range view of their lives, their choices could improve, as is hoped for in Spiritual Exercise 21, which exhorts us to “grow into this freedom by gradually bringing an order of values into our lives so that we find that at the moment of choice of decision we are not swayed by any disordered love”.
Law School as a Transformative Experience
While often derided as a breeding ground for lawyers who will live out all of the worst stereotypes associated with attorneys—including greed, trickery, dishonesty, and avarice—law school can also be a transformative moment for law students and one that may determine their ability to practice law ethically and to serve justice. As Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ (2000), noted in his address at Santa Clara University, the educational goal of all Jesuit universities—including law schools—should be to “educate the whole person of solidarity for the real world.” Without mentioning law school clinics by name, Father Kolvenbach certainly tapped their ethos when he declared that “solidarity is learned through ‘contact’ rather than through ‘concepts.’ ” Indeed, because legal education is intrinsically tied to an examination of rights, law students enrolled in Jesuit law schools have many avenues in which they can express “a willingness not only to recognize and respect the rights of all, especially the poor and the powerless, but also to work actively to secure those rights” (ibid.). Law schools are tightly regulated by the American Bar Association (ABA) in terms of credits, curriculum, required classes, prerequisites, hiring and promotion practices, building size and standards, and a host of other factors. Beyond the requirements imposed by the ABA, Jesuit law schools have the opportunity—and the duty—to rise above the norm and provide their law students with a transformative educational experience through courses, clinics, and other programs in which students directly serve others and, in doing so, expand their substantive legal knowledge and embrace life-long skills needed to retain their professional and personal integrity. Of course, the concern with creating a transformative experience for law students is not confined to Jesuit or religiously afflliated law schools. (p.184) Secular law schools also struggle to help students maintain a personal and professional balance in the face of an academy still somewhat geared toward educating law students primarily in the theory of law with little regard for its practical application or the ability of law students to serve others.
Law school is many things: it is a professional school, it is a winnowing process, and it is a test of survival. After completing the first year of law school, which is focused on the bedrock courses of Property, Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, and Criminal Law, law students are free to explore courses in their areas of interest, such as Family Law, Criminal Law, Immigration Law, Corporate Law, and on and on. Law students may also enroll in narrowly focused upper-level seminars, moot court to hone oral advocacy skills, legal clinics, which offer direct client contact, and externships in government, non-profit, and private offices. The hierarchical nature of first-year required courses and upper-level electives is nearly universal among law schools in the United States and Canada and, while course offerings vary considerably, the same structure persists in all law schools.
Addressing the Negative Aspects of Legal Education
Law school is not easy, and the pressures of law school exact a high price. The attendant pressure for top grades, securing summer and postgraduation employment, worrying about passing the bar exam, and paying off student loans are universal to law students (Glesner 1991, 668). Compared to their peers, law students are disproportionately neurotic and prone to a variety of dangerous behaviors and addictions (Pang 1999, 241). The pressures of law school do not ease when students enter the practice of law: lawyers have a rate of alcohol and drug abuse greater than one and a half times the national average (Rothstein 2008, 531). In fact, a recent study concluded that 20 percent of female attorneys and 13 percent of male attorneys reported consuming six or more alcoholic drinks per day (Krieger 2002, 212). Attorneys also suffer depression at a rate three times the national average, and male attorneys are twice as likely to commit suicide as their nonattorney peers (ibid.).
(p.185) In the midst of this depressing data, two questions are highly relevant. First, how can law school faculty and administrators foster a desire among students to serve others—to transform the world—within the narrow confines of legal education and the pressure cooker atmosphere of law school? Second, how can a concentration on serving others make law school less of a traumatizing event and more of a transformative event for law students while also providing law students with the intellectual tools and practical skills they need to navigate a treacherous profession? The answer to both questions is surprisingly simple: law students should be required to enroll in at least one legal clinic as a prerequisite to graduation and law students enrolled in legal clinics should be provided ample instruction in and opportunities for Jesuit-based reflection. A legal education steeped in Jesuit spirituality has the ability to promote justice, in the broad sense outlined above, by giving law students the freedom to reflect on how their actions affect their clients’ lives beyond the narrow facts of a legal matter and either advance or detract from the promotion of peaceful and respectful relations. In a more immediate sense, embracing Jesuit spirituality can also transform the legal services industry, ensure the professional competence of generations of attorneys, and save the lives of countless law students and lawyers from a culture of negativity, despair, and the associated vagaries of depression, substance abuse, and suicide.
Ignatian spirituality can be integral to the life of a successful and well-balanced attorney. Gregory Kalscheur, SJ (2000), provides a stirring account of the need for attorneys to embrace Ignatian spirituality both as a means of better serving their clients and preserving their own integrity. In doing so, Professor Kalscheur shares his own journey from lawyer to Jesuit and calls on law students and attorneys to “discern how God is calling us to lives of freedom and wholeness and integrity if we pay attention to the feelings moving in our hearts as we reflect on our own life experiences” (46). Merely by using the Spiritual Exercises to attune themselves to the needs of their clients and their own needs, law students and attorneys can gain a “deeper experience of how God is active in their lives” (46). Once turned on to the benefits of a strong spiritual foundation, attorneys often find greater energy and devotion to their clients (Kronman 2005, 439).
(p.186) Simply put, Ignatian-based legal education, or some other form of legal education with a serious commitment to reflective practices, can be the difference between death and life for law students and their clients and also advance the cause of justice in the wider community. This is an uphill battle: platitudes regarding the desire to serve others which so often grace the pages of prospective law students’ admission applications rarely last beyond the second week of first-year classes. Inspiring law students and changing the culture of educational institutions and a profession is not easy. Law students are nothing if not unduly cynical, and an overt focus by a law school on service to others without meaningful opportunities to actually engage in such service will likely foster yawns and feigned interest.
There needs to be some hook to entice law students and the administration of law schools to shift their focus from learning laws and rules to appreciating the bigger picture of how that knowledge will be used. A justice-based legal education works best when law students are able to recognize a clear benefit to their career paths and earning potential. For that reason alone, the case needs to be made to law students that they will be more marketable to potential employers with a skills-based course in a legal clinic. An implicit goal that may appeal to certain law students is that, by enrolling in a clinic that practices the Spiritual Exercises, they will be less likely to fall victim to the sense of despair that pervades the legal profession. The time for law schools to reexamine their practices is opportune: a sea change is taking place in many law schools—religious and secular—to focus on the need to better prepare law students to practice law, while at the same time serving justice and retaining their integrity (Welch and Wegner 2009, 867; Krannich, Holbrook, and McAdams 2009, 381).
The Connection between Faith and the Promotion of Justice
There is no shortage of ostensibly justice-based programs in law schools. There is, however, a shortage of programs and courses offered by law schools that deeply examine the ways in which justice is achieved and the role of attorneys in furthering justice (Aiken 1997, (p.187) 212; Shaffer 1996, 195). Other observers have forcefully argued that Catholic and, in particular, Jesuit law schools have lost their way and, while Jesuit law schools “uniformly provide their students with a high level of legal instruction, nothing in the academic life of these institutions sets them apart from schools that do not identify themselves as either Catholic or Jesuit” (Breen 2007, 41; Brown 2009, 293). Of course, Catholic and Jesuit law schools are not alone in this criticism; many religiously affiliated law schools are justly accused of laying aside religious conviction in favor of a secular approach to teaching law to a religiously diverse student body. With their focus on providing a high-caliber education, Jesuit law schools may have let slip some of their spiritual zeal. Indeed, Edgar Alan Poe was said to “have liked the Jesuits … because they were highly cultivated gentlemen and scholars, they smoked and they drank, and played cards, and never said a word about religion” (Schroth 2002, 24).
This commentary echoes in modern Jesuit law schools: apart from the presence of crucifixes on the walls of classrooms, in many Jesuit law schools there is little tangible or visible measure of a spiritual mission (Nussbaum 2008, 631). Yet, Jesuit law schools can—and do—play a critical role in that deep examination of justice so that justice is not solely pursued to enhance the reputation of the law school but, instead, is targeted to those persons and communities most in need of justice and includes a reflective element to encourage students to examine their own pursuit of justice (Moore 2007, 459). As Professor Breen (2007, 41) argued, Catholic identity should not be seen as the icing on a cake but, rather, as the air in a balloon is “integral and essential, as something which inspires and gives purpose to the institution.” Other non-Catholic law schools also derive a sense of mission from religious affiliation. Dean Bradley Toben (2009, 161 of Baylor University School of Law, a Baptist-affiliated law school, argues that faith-based law schools “need to act with intentionality to preserve their identity in the face of a pervasively secular culture. … In other words, the faculty of a [law] school with a faith mission must embrace and actively advance that school’s mission for it to endure and color the experiences of those within that community.”
It is clear that the Jesuit hierarchy supports justice-oriented service in all Jesuit ministries. Decree 3 of the 34 th General Congregation (p.188) issued a directive for “social centers,” which could include clinics operated by Jesuit-affiliated law schools, to place faith more explicitly in their work: “Social centers for and direct social action for and with the poor will be more effective in promoting justice to the extent that they integrate faith into all dimensions of their work. Thus each Jesuit ministry should work to deepen its particular implementation of our full mission of faith and justice, which cannot but be enriched by efforts toward a more effective dialogue and enculturation.”
Legal Clinics as a Means to Serve Justice
Most law schools operate legal clinics that serve justice one person at a time, such as clinics serving veterans, low-income immigrants, and the elderly, or on a national or even global scale by addressing human rights abuses or environmental policies. Yet only a handful of law schools require students to enroll in a legal clinic to graduate. The operation of legal clinics is an expensive proposition for law schools (Chemerinsky 2008, 596). Most clinics do not exceed a 1:10 faculty and the same tuition is charged per credit hour for clinics as for all other courses. Legal clinics operate as small law offices, complete with the attendant overhead, including rent, utilities, administrative staff, and filing fees. As a result, it is far more lucrative for law schools to hire professors to teach larger classes or even seminars than it is to maintain legal clinics and, as a corollary, it is expensive for law schools to add sufficient legal clinics to meet demand generated if enrollment in a legal clinic is required to graduate.
For most Jesuit-afflliated law schools, legal clinics are their most visible ministry (Scholla 2004, 1232). Legal clinics play a logical and consistent role in Jesuit law schools as the seekers and defenders of justice. Yet, while providing legal clinics is a step toward promoting service to others, it is not enough if justice is pursued by students enrolled in legal clinics without the integration of faith or any space for reflection on the meaning of service; merely serving the needs of the poor and afflicted does not allow legal clinics at Jesuit law schools to live up to their full potential. If, however, legal clinics create room for law students to examine and share their views regarding justice and how their work in the legal clinic serves justice, law students will come (p.189) away from the experience committed to serving justice and preserving their personal integrity (McCaffrey 2003, 95). Legal clinics are the ideal laboratory for exploring and doing justice: they are limited in size, they typically represent persons who are victimized and treated unjustly, the faculty-student interaction is very close, and law students can be encouraged—or even required—to reflect upon their work in the clinics and how it may or may not serve justice (Perry 2009, 167).
In addition to general reflections on the meaning of their work on behalf of their clients, students enrolled in legal clinics can use certain intrinsically Jesuit teachings and practices to enhance their ability to seek and do justice and to maintain their bearings in the face of personal and professional challenges. For example, law students enrolled in the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy prepare for each class and client interaction with instruction centered on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. In the first classes of each academic term, students are instructed in the law and procedure most relevant to their work for a particular client and, at the same time, are provided core readings examining the life and work of St. Ignatius as well as the Spiritual Exercises (Fleming 2008).
How the Spiritual Exercises Fit with Legal Education
According to Gerald Fagin, SJ, one of the leading modern interpreters of the Spiritual Exercises, the Spiritual Exercises have a two-fold purpose. First, the Exercises were designed by Ignatius to help a person “to overcome oneself, to order one’s life, so one could reach an ordered decision in one’s life” (Fagin 2005, 59). A second purpose developed later, as people began to use the Exercises to enrich their spiritual life and to learn how to live out the Gospel more fully in their lives (ibid.) For Father Fagin, the Exercises free up a mind to make a decision without interference from feelings regarding pleasure, power or prestige and, in doing so, that decision will be both authentic to the person but also more in keeping with the Gospel. In many ways, the Spiritual Exercises are uniquely compatible with a legally trained mind. Ignatius was nothing if not a bottom-line thinker and doer just as law students and lawyers are trained to be. For Ignatius, the Spiritual Exercises were a means to an end. The end—the purpose and goal of life—is to praise, (p.190) reverence, and serve God and to come to eternal life (ibid.). In the face of great and systemic injustices in the world, it may seem somewhat heretical and self-absorbed to suggest that the prime beneficiaries of law students pursuing justice in an Ignatian key are not those served by law students but, instead, are the law students themselves. In defense of such apparent narcissism, Decree 4, of the 32nd General Congregation is helpful: “People today are somehow aware that their problems are not just social and technological, but personal and spiritual. They have a feeling that what is at stake here is the very meaning of man: his destiny, his future. Men are hungry: but hungry not just for bread, but for the Word of God.” Contrary to popular belief, law students are humans and they thirst for meaning to sustain them in their careers and their lives. Serving justice and having the space to reflect upon that service enables law students to recognize and embrace that they and their work have meaning.
Decree 4 is a rich vein for justice-minded law faculty and administrators to probe. Justice as its own reward allows law students and attorneys to escape the “cult of money, prestige, and power [which] has as its fruit the sin of institutionalized aggression …, and it ends in the enslavement not only of the oppressed but of the oppressor.” Unless they come to grips with their part in combating injustice, law students and attorneys drift into the cult of money. The mission of a legal educator is to teach students legal structure, principles, and doctrines and, with respect to legal clinics, to nurture advocacy and client relation skills. No less important to a legal educator is the mission to preserve the integrity and longevity of law students as future attorneys. Substantive knowledge and legal acumen will do little to guard law students against the insidious pressures and alluring prizes they will face as attorneys.
For example, professors can work hard to ensure law students thoroughly understand the basis for successful legal action. Yet, unless professors step up their efforts and expand their instruction beyond the narrow confines of the subject at hand, they cannot prevent their law students from overbilling a client, raiding a client’s trust fund, or failing to fulfill their ethical duty to perform pro bono service. Only by including instruction on the reasons why lawyers do what they do and exhorting law students to reflect on their role in doing justice can professors (p.191) preserve and protect law students (Marlow 2008, 489). Indeed, others argue that “religion should permeate the program of the Jesuit law school. … It is a faith that the God of Israel lives and works in the world and calls believers to articulate, evaluate, critique, and act upon their assumptions and values” (Barkan 1993, 6). When they are practicing attorneys, our former students who benefited from a justice-based Jesuit legal education will know the needs of the poor and suffering, use their gifts to serve those needs, and love those they serve and themselves. In so doing, they will gain a mission for their professional and personal lives and be less likely to fall into the dead-end trap of a life lived solely for fleeting and elusive material pleasures.
One important outward difference between the use of the Spiritual Exercises and legal knowledge is that the ends desired by the Exercises are both in the here and now and in the eternal while the ends for law students in legal clinics and attorneys in practice constantly change with the demands and needs of the clients they serve. This dichotomy renders the Exercises particularly useful for law students and lawyers because, as noted above, they are prone to careen from highs to lows in their daily work for clients and are always seeking out the next client, the next strategy, and the next win. The Spiritual Exercises can help lawyers become more aware of their work and how it serves more than material ends and nourishes their souls. Professor Kalscheur (2009, 2) noted that “the commitment to promotion of justice should be manifest … in the opportunities for action that are part of the life of the law school.” Morissey (2004, 584), among others, has noted the central role of legal clinics in promoting the distinct values of a Jesuit law school:
The Ignatian spirit of discernment can still be present at the schools where even busy law students should be encouraged to find time for such reflection. … In addition, life-long habits of such a commitment should be fostered by work in clinical programs that actively advocate the causes of the poor and by requiring that students perform some pro bono work even while in law school.
Legal clinics, coupled with Ignatian-focused reflection, are a means by which religion—not in a doctrinal sense, but in a practical and (p.192) justice-based orientation—can be instilled in legal education. Legal clinics, founded on a mission of service and embracing Jesuit principles and precepts, serve that purpose and ensure that graduates of Jesuit-affiliated law schools are not merely technically skilled attorneys but also responsible leaders who will not lose touch with the sense of mission and Jesuit transformation they experienced as law students enrolled in a legal clinic. Professor Rose (2001, 53) noted that “one of the best ways to impart a justice ethic to law students is to allow them, as students, to provide direct legal representation to the poor and other victims of injustice.”
An Example of the Use of the Spiritual Exercises
Using the Spiritual Exercises as a guide, prior to each and every client encounter, law students enrolled in the Immigration Law Clinic reflect on the Contemplation to Attain Love of God (Contemplatio Ad Amorem). First, law students are taught to regard everything as a gift: their skills, their training, their energy, their client, and even their client’s problems are all gifts which allow this encounter to even happen. Second, students are encouraged to recognize that God dwells in all creation and especially that they and their clients are instruments of God for a higher purpose. Third, students contemplate that God is at work in all creation, including the adverse situation facing their client. Fourth, students acknowledge that everything comes from God or, in more concrete terms, that they worked hard and sacrificed to get to where they are but God enabled them to get that far.
One of the more engaging and relevant practices advocated by Ignatius is the Examination of Conscience or Examen. Law students use the Examination of Conscience to orient themselves and their work in the clinic. As Fr. George Aschenbrenner, SJ (1972, 21), noted: “Too much attention to our own victories and failures can make us self-absorbed and confirm in us the illusion that we manage our own lives. Examination is rather a question of asking how I respond to God’s loving action in my life”
As a final step before any client encounter or beginning any task or project, law students engage in the following brief Examination of Conscience. First, attention is focused on the task at hand and any (p.193) extraneous concerns of the law students are mentally pushed to the side in order to be fully engaged in the client interview, hearing, or oral argument. Second, students are called on to regard their work with reverence in light of its significance for others; lawyers are charged with safeguarding fame, fortunes, and family, and law students should respect their ability to dramatically alter a client’s life for better or worse. Finally, law students remind themselves that they are devoted to the service of God through their service to their clients.
By the end of each academic term, law students instructed in this manner engage in the Contemplation to Attain Love of God and the Examination of Conscience reflexively prior to every client encounter or significant task. Law students report that the use of each Exercise orients them better to the needs of their clients and helps them to appreciate their role in the legal process. In experiencing the Spiritual Exercises, at least on a small scale, law students often reflect that the Spiritual Exercises helped to calm them during the often tumultuous transition from the study of law to the practice of law. In short, to maximize the chance that law students will experience a transformation in how they will practice law, it is not enough for Jesuit legal clinics to be just bricks and mortar and paper and computers. Legal clinics should be required for graduation from a Jesuit law school and legal clinics should embrace Ignatian spiritual precepts and practices in order to serve better justice and the interests of law students (Bryce 2008, 577).
Beyond using the Spiritual Exercises to better attune law students to the needs of their clients, the Spiritual Exercises can also bring law students to a heightened state of indifference needed to make effective decisions. Indifference is a critical construct of the Spiritual Exercises, as it is in the work of successful lawyers. As Father Fagin (2007, 26–27) noted:
In everyday life, we should keep ourselves indifferent or undecided in the face of all the created gifts when we have an option and we do not have the clarity of what would be the better choice. We ought not to be led on by our natural likes and dislikes even in matters such as health or sickness, wealth or poverty, between living in the east or the west, becoming an accountant or a lawyer. Rather, our (p.194) only desire and our one choice should be that option which better leads us to the goal for which God created us.
Law students enrolled in legal clinics need to avoid impulsive decisions on behalf of clients. First-year law students quickly learn that navigating the legal system is a matter of eternal choices: which venue, which jurisdiction, which judge, which law or regulation to cite, which case to emphasize, which witness to call first, which juror to excuse are examples of choices lawyers face every day. Studied indifference to wealth and power and avoiding the temptation to simply make a choice when one does not yet see a clear path, are useful skills for law students. Of course, the indifference sought by Ignatius through the Exercises is different from the colloquial, negative connotation of indifference. Indifference, for Ignatius, does not mean “I don’t care.” Ignatius meant that “you are so passionately committed to God and to following God and God’s plan that everything else is relativized, everything else is secondary to that one goal and one purpose” (Fagin 2007, 28) A lawyer’s indifference born out of a genuine appreciation for the complexity of the varied choices under the law and reverence for the consequences of each choice is healthy—as is examining the arrayed choices with respect to how each serves God. The needs of the client and, if Ignatian philosophy is embraced by the law student, the desire to serve God come first over any other consideration.
One note of caution observed in the Immigration Law Clinic with respect to the use of a spiritual-or religion-based approach to the practice of law: most clients will have little patience for an attorney who wishes to overtly engage them in a discussion of their religious beliefs, faith, or spirituality. As noted by Professor Toben (2009, 163), “the daily life of a lawyer does not generally provide fertile ground for open religious expression. … The client wants preparation, not prayer. Opposing counsel wants cooperation and even concessions—not witnessing. Christian piety can never be a substitute for professional competence.” Jesuit introspection is best confined to the private interactions of law professors and students as they prepare to meet with clients and engage the legal process.
(p.195) Other Examples of a Faith-based Approach to Legal Education
Other methods of promoting faith and justice in law schools can complement the use of the Spiritual Exercises in legal clinics. Professor Amelia Uelmen (2004, 921) convincingly argues for a realignment of curriculum at Catholic law schools to better serve justice. Professor Uelmen calls for law schools to be inclusive and seek out dialogue with practitioners of other faiths, to present witnesses on the faculty or among practicing attorneys who do connect faith and justice, and to promote religious reflection in addition to concrete acts of social justice. Professor Lucia Ann Silecchia (2000, 182), in a seminal article on this topic, also brought the message that spirituality should be incubated and not left to wither during the law school rite of passage. These steps are all in the same direction as the use of the Spiritual Exercises although it can be argued that the Spiritual Exercises are particularly well-suited for adoption by law schools: the Spiritual Exercises follow set patterns and proceed in a logical fashion. This structure appeals to law students steeped in the building blocks of legal theory.
While legal clinics are central to the identity and mission of Jesuit law schools, there is no reason that efforts to foster a greater sense of justice should be confined to the work of the clinics. Jeffrey Brand (2001), dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, noted several actions that law schools could take beyond legal clinics to serve justice, including ethical training, street law programs to educate high school students, and community service opportunities. Additional activities could include fundraisers dedicated to providing fellowships to law students externing at nonprofit organizations. The need for Jesuit universities and their law schools to promote this transformative experience has been recognized before. Henry Rose (2001, 53), a law professor at Loyola University Chicago, called on Jesuit law schools to “decide whether they should be countercultural institutions, resisting the trends in legal practice that undercut the public service responsibility of the profession.” Too often, studies of practicing attorneys reveal dissatisfaction with their choice of career, high rates of attrition, and regrets regarding the decision to attend law school (Dinovitzer and Garth 2009). Justice-based legal education counteracts the corrosive nature of law practice.
Law school holds a special fascination in the American psyche. Iconic images of law school are formed by The Paper Chase, One L, Legally Blond, and the collective lore of stressed-out law students and ritualistic rites of passage, such as bareknuckle competition for class rank, moot court, and law review. Lawyers also engender a special fascination—some would argue revulsion—in the American psyche. As with most collective images, the reality does not match the perception. There is no doubt that law school has an innate tendency to bring out the worst in law students. Competing to get into law school, scrambling for top grades, coveting plum jobs and law school positions, and, as a capstone to law school, cramming for the bar exam would likely make most people somewhat neurotic. While there is no practical way to change many of the inherent stressors of law school or the practice of law, Jesuit law schools have a unique ability to help law students constructively cope with stress while also serving the justice mission of the law school and the broader university.
Legal clinics integrate all aspects of Jesuit legal education: they serve as laboratories for law students to practice their legal knowledge and interact with clients in need, they can offer a backdrop for Ignatiancentered reflection, and they create the conditions necessary for law students to transform into mission-oriented, justice-seeking, and well-balanced attorneys. Not all legal clinics are created equal. In order for legal clinics to maximize their potential, legal clinics should be required for graduation from law school and should provide instruction in the Spiritual Exercises or some other structured format for the reflective practice of law. Legal clinics should stress the need for service to others and, at the same time, provide time and space for inward reflection.
Law students, regardless of their faith, can grow to become “men and women for others” and, in doing so, rise above the pressures of law school and starting a legal career. As Father Kolvenbach (2000) noted, “when the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change. …Personal involvement with innocent suffering, with the injustice others suffer, is the catalyst for solidarity which then gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection.” This is the goal of Jesuit higher education and legal clinics rise each day to meet that challenge.