by Bruce Strom
“I swear before God not to reject, for any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the weak, the stranger, or the oppressed.” The oldest oath of the lawyer found in the Canton of Geneva.
October 25-31 marks the 7th annual national pro bono celebration week. The event is sponsored by the American Bar Association to raise awareness on the need for pro bono services, demonstrate the work that is being done, and highlight the stories of what happens when a lawyer stops to help neighbors in need.
There is a chapter in the book Gospel Justice which addresses lawyers. In recognition of pro bono celebration week, I include an excerpt:
“She came storming into the office. “I’s got to see me da’ minister of justice. Where is da’ minister of justice?”
Her question was a profound one. Like many she was mispronouncing our name – Administer Justice. Often we are referred to as “a minister of justice”. I appreciate the error as I hope it reflects a deeper truth.
Thelma was a large, African American woman. She was upset with the injustice of her community which was riddled with crime, fraud and abuse. She wanted to fight back but the community was a low-income neighborhood and lacked the financial resources to hire an attorney.
Administer Justice helped her form a community association to provide a forum for residents to come together to discuss the injustices and plan a way to address. The group would seek legal guidance from time to time as they worked to systemically make a difference.
Thelma is a hard woman to forget. I appreciated her energy, her earnestness, and her booming voice. Her words will forever echo in my mind, “I’s got to see me the minister of justice. Where is da’ minister of justice?”
Every year more than one million low-income people in this country cry out to see a minister of justice. One by one they are turned away because of a lack of resources. Nearly three times that number need help but assume there is no help available and don’t even look for it. Where is da’ minister of justice?
The word minister means agent and as a minister of justice we are charged with delivering justice. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9.
We are told to “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17.
Attorneys are uniquely qualified to serve as ministers of justice. This is a noble calling. All Christian attorneys are called to be ministers of justice. The Bible does not limit the call. Unlike other areas where ones’ giftedness will help determine ones’ service, this is a unique call. No one else can defend the rights of the poor and needy. By virtue of your profession you have a unique ability and therefore a special duty to serve as an agent of justice.
This call is for all. That does not mean all will serve full-time. On the contrary, like missionaries, only a few will be called to full-time service. Like missionaries, these men and women need financial and volunteer support.
Every Christian lawyer can spend some time serving on this mission field. Other mission endeavors are worthy of support, but other individuals can do them. Only the lawyer can speak in the halls of justice. Only the lawyer can render legal advice.
You have a unique call to administer justice. Still doubt? Have you ever used the post nominal of our profession – esq. or esquire? The word means “shield bearer”. You are a shield bearer in the fight against injustice. Put on the shield of faith and join the battle.” Pp. 173-174.
Access to justice begins with access to an attorney. We have systems that allow you to make a difference by giving four hours a month. You can make a difference. Don’t delay. Reach out to us today and listen to Jesus request of the lawyer in the Good Samaritan to
Go and Do Likewise.