12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law (Step 10)

Step 10 – Embrace Law as a “High Calling.”

Judge Carl Horn begins Step 10 with the proposition that the legal profession’s failing ideals were once healthy and widely held. At the center of these ideals was the assumption that the best lawyer was “not simply an accomplished technician but a person of prudence or practical wisdom as well.” This included wisdom about human beings and “their tangled affairs that anyone who wishes to provide real deliberative counsel must possess.” The virtue of practical wisdom is “central to human excellence that has an extrinsic value of its own.”   

Horn urges the profession needs to rededicate itself to these higher purposes; individual lawyers should treat the profession as a “high calling.” Horn suggests that we should take a higher road and understand that there are things we will instinctively know not to do. We will not lie or make misleading representations to the court. We will treat opposing counsel in a manner in which we would expect to be treated. We will not cheat or steal from our clients by doing unnecessary work. We will not take on work that we find morally offensive just because “everyone deserves a lawyer,” or for that matter, because we could use the extra money.  

Horn concludes that there is a connection between the collapse of historical ideals and the loss of professional self-confidence. “It follows, if we are to have realistic hopes for regaining professional self-confidence, that we must reaffirm ideals that transcend self-interest – including our individual and professional commitment to the “common good.” We must not allow the legal profession to become an amoral, dollar-driven business; indeed, we should not be afraid to make value based decisions or give advice grounded in moral conviction. In short, if we are to find fulfillment in the practice of law, we must take Step 10: we must embrace law as a high calling.”

Please join us next week for Step 11 – Be Generous with Your Time and Money.

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