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Faith, Values and Lawyering

Submitted by Rosebella Nyonje on Tue, 07-22-2014
Long title
Faith, Values and Lawyering in the 21st Century: Failure of the Compartmentalisation Approach
al-Hibri, Azizah
Author(s)' contact information
University of Richmond, USA
Conference title
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location
City University London
United States
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Traditional theories of lawyering were based on the mechanistic model of the Industrial Revolution which reduced “things in the world” to their component parts and then dealt with each part separately. This was the approach in engineering, industrial assembly lines, corporate organization, universities, medicine and other important areas in our society, including lawyering. Similarly, it was understood that the “faith” component of a person could be separated from the rest of one’s being. It could be set aside during the business week in the “objective” world of secularism, to be embraced later on weekends. In fact, the secular view of the world often appeared like a donut from which the divine was simply removed from the center of public discourse without any adverse or deep rooted effects.
In the Age of informatics, the new model is that of networking, interrelationships and indivisible organic wholes. We now understand better that a human being cannot be sliced into a business week component and a weekend component, especially when it comes to ethics. To claim otherwise, is to distort reality in the interest of suppressing that person’s fullness of belief and values. Given our First Amendment rights, this state of affairs appears oppressive and in need of being genuinely addressed. In his presentation, Rakesh Anand articulates precisely these concerns which render the person of faith an “outsider” participating in a “parallel world” that ignores her core values. A major hurdle in conjoining the two worlds is the very central concept in lawyering, namely Justice. Are lawyers committed to Justice or to “winning” on behalf of their client at any price? Depending on the answer, we have two possible “worlds” that differ substantially in core values. To require a person to live in both worlds is to create a schizophrenic society.
In Islam, for example, the core value on which all our worldly affairs should be based is that of ‘Adalah (Justice and Fairness). This core value is expected to inform all aspects of our life, including our dealings with each other and with animals and nature, our views on racial and other differences, and also our understanding of economic justice, criminal justice, and the role of the lawyer in helping society achieve a state of ‘Adalah. Yet the “parallel world” of law that faces young Muslim lawyers challenges these values.
For this reason, generations of promising young men and women of all faiths abandoned their plum legal positions on Wall Street and in major law firms because they could not satisfy their yearning to pursue their own ideals of Justice, rooted in their faith and not in the secular bazar of daily activities. The “parallelness” of these two “worlds” became obvious to them a bit too late.
The challenge staring us in the face becomes this: How do we save our current legal system from the antiquated mechanistic model of the Industrial Revolution and drag it into the Twenty First Century and the Age of Informatics. This is the age of human connectedness through internet communication. It is the age that repeatedly reveals reality as constituted of complex networks and organic wholes. It is the age of global cooperation, not domination. We now need to make it the age of social justice and truly shared values. That can only be done by rejecting “parallel worlds” and making a place for all of us in an equally shared world where secularism does not have a special advantage.
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