Law school did not nurture my spiritual self. In fact, traditional legal education has a way of sucking spirituality right out of a student. You are trained to think “critically,” to put aside feelings of sympathy and vague notions of morality.
To be fair, this training is essential for students to become the zealous advocate for a client that they need to be. Unchecked sympathy for a client or for the opposing party can lead to disastrous results. Lawyers need detachment and objectivity to navigate the treacherous waters in which their clients swim.
This training to “think like a lawyer” is the focus of the first year of law school. The problem is that it often goes on for three years without much encouragement of, or assistance for, students to incorporate into their new lawyer-self the essential moral and human values with which they entered law school and the additional ones they need to develop. Many law schools today are aware of this problem and are intentional in addressing the values gap. Such was not the case when I was in law school.
Thankfully, I found a counterweight to the narrow training of law school, which served to keep me balanced: Watts Street Baptist Church. And in this church I found a small group of elders who became my mentors: the Herndons (Fred, Nannie Mae, and Ruby Leigh) and Leslie Dunbar. All were in their 60s and 70s. They formed the core of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee. I joined them, or perhaps, it is more accurately to say that they took me under their wings.