Friday April 2, 2010

Students Reflect on Intersection of Law and Religion

Students faced important questions about how personal morality and religious beliefs influence lawyers and their clients during a special course, "(Religious) Morality and the Professional Life of a Lawyer."

Students faced important questions about how personal morality and religious beliefs influence lawyers and their clients during a special course, "(Religious) Morality and the Professional Life of a Lawyer." Taught by Professor Rich Saphire and Dean of Students Lori Shaw, the course was one of several offered during spring intrasession week in February.

The course is "designed to stimulate student reflection on the ways in which personal moral and religious convictions might affect the career choices and daily professional lives of American lawyers," Saphire said. "Students are asked to consider the factors that brought them to law school, the relationship between their moral values and their legal education, the variety of lawyering models that are reflected in practice, and the relationship between their religious and moral values and the ethical responsibilities governing lawyers' lives."

As part of the course, three guests, attorneys James Kelleher '79 and Nancy Roberson '81 and Judge Jeff Froelich of the Second District Court of Appeals, who was the first director the School's Law Clinic, spoke to the students about their own views of the intersection of religion, morality and the practice of law. A theme that ran through the guests' comments was the importance of helping others and making a difference in others' lives.

"No matter what your faith is, and no matter what your talents are," Kelleher said, the Volunteer Lawyers Program is one way to "put your faith in action."

Froelich said that as he considers cases on the Court of Appeals and makes decisions, he must ask himself, "Am I doing the right thing and am I doing it the right way? I have to fight to remember that each of these cases involved real people with real cases," he said. "You don't just call balls and strikes."

Roberson and Kelleher also spoke about how their own religious backgrounds influence their legal work. Roberson said she looks for "opportunities to provide excellent legal services and spiritual support" to her clients. Kelleher told the students that attorneys have opportunities to affect others in positive ways. "You don't treat people like brown folders and as ways to make money," he said. "Each of you can feel professional satisfaction" in your work and in faith."

Faith comes into play in the law profession, Kelleher said, "but you don't have to carry a Bible around with you."

Phillip Hurst, a 1L from Kettering, said the course helped students begin to think about how they work with their clients. "Thinking through the process, as an attorney, enables the law student to develop skills that will be invaluable in practice," he said, "and will allow the student to find balance in the gap between legal authority and moral authority."

Intrasessions are one-credit, intensive courses usually held during a mid-semester break in classes. The courses help broaden students' perspectives, provide skills training and give students and professors opportunities to explore topics that do not fit into a full semester schedule.

Other courses held during the spring intrasession week include "Topics in Personal Property" by Professor Becky Cochran with Jenna Hosier; "Digital Music Sampling and Copyright Infringement" by Professor Tracy Reilly; "Protecting Rights: Constitutions, Courts and Other Branches of Government" by Dean Lisa Kloppenberg and UD Professor Jason Pierce; and "Virtual Online Mediation" by Professor Andrea Seielstad.

In addition, several intrasession courses are being offered during the semester. These include "Race, Racism and the Law: Unnatural Causes: The Role of the Law in Eliminating Health Inequalities" by Professor Vernellia Randall; "Oil and Gas Law" by Professor Blake Watson; and "Discovery Techniques" by Professor Monique Lampke.

For more information, contact Bob Mihalek at 937-229-4683.