Integrating faith and work can be challenging for those in the legal profession, according to three recent speakers at a Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work event.
Despite tension between God’s law and man’s law at times, faith is often a motivating factor for those involved in the judicial system, according to three area speakers at a recent luncheon hosted by the Lorentzsen Center for Faith and Work, part of Concordia’s Offutt School of Business.
The center identifies and sustains ethical values and practices in individuals and organizations.
The speakers were Ralph Erickson, a federal judge; Michael Williams, a prosecuting attorney; and Mark Friese, a defense attorney.
Each brought a distinct perspective to the conversation, but the fact such dialogue occurred is unusual, Erickson pointed out. In American culture, judges and lawyers don’t talk about their faith in public. But it’s important to do so, he said.
“As a society, we have to embrace faith and allow people of faith and people without faith to express their opinions and beliefs without fear of retribution,” he said.
He then issued a challenge to those in the audience: “Go home and think about what you really believe.”
Erickson believes that great responsibility comes with his vocation as a judge.
“Those of us who hold positions of authority will be held to greater accountability … ” Erickson said. He believes God will ask, how did he help? How did he lead? Did he inspire hope? Did he give comfort where there is suffering?
Responsibility supported by faith is also part of what draws Williams and Friese to their vocations as well.
Williams applied to law school after reflecting on one of his favorite Bible verses, Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.” Six months after he graduated, a class-action suit on behalf of people with disabilities institutionalized in North Dakota landed on his desk. The case lasted 16 years and resulted in 3,000 people with disabilities being integrated into communities across the state.
“We fought for justice,” he said. “It really was my faith in action.”
Defending the accused also takes a step of faith, said Friese.
A former police officer, Friese never expected to defend the people he used to arrest. But his role now is not to determine his clients’ moral guilt or blameworthiness, but to ensure the individual has a fair trial. He views himself as a peacemaker, a person who helps his clients find peace and fairness.
“The majority of the people I represent are good people who make a singular mistake,” he said. “It’s a spiritual journey for me to help people get fixed. It’s allowed me to expand my faith.”