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Calling & The Legal Profession 2023 - 6 CLE / 6 E

6 CLE / 6 E - On Demand Seminar

Law has long been considered a profession. Implied in this special designation was the belief that the practice of law was indispensable to the well-being of society and that a lawyer served the common good in a distinctive, fundamental way. A lawyer’s work was not just a job, but a genuine vocation, a calling. Without a sense of calling, however, the practice of law becomes the regulated business of providing legal services and lawyers become mere service providers who find little satisfaction in the law. Many would argue this is the state of the profession today. This program explores the historic role of calling in the legal profession and the implications of its absence for the future of the profession.


Introduction – Calling & The Legal Profession

Traditionally, law was not just a job. To be a lawyer, you not only needed to possess certain knowledge and skills. You had to be a certain kind of person with a certain kind of character. This understanding of the legal profession can be seen as falling within the tradition of calling. An examination of the legal profession through the lens of calling illuminates what has been lost and what has been gained in our concept of the law and what it means to be a lawyer. (Note: The introduction will include a review of the Oath of Attorneys set forth in Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and Discipline of Attorneys and Section 33-43-1-3 of the Indiana Code.)

Calling & the Evolution of the Rules of Professional Conduct

The history of legal ethics in the United States is marked by the waning of the importance of calling in the law and the legal profession. Early ethical standards assumed that becoming a lawyer required a process of formation through which an aspiring lawyer became a certain kind of person with a certain kind of vocation. For the most part, this understanding of the profession is absent from the Rules of Professional Conduct that govern lawyers today. What happened? What were some important milestones in this evolution? (Note: This presentation will review the history of the Rules of Professional Conduct, including a consideration of the ABA Canons of Professional Ethics; the ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility; and the works of various jurists (including Hoffman, Fuller and Patterson) that guided the drafting of these codes and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.)

The Calling to Truth

The single person who deserves more credit than any other for founding the world’s largest democracy also spent years of his life struggling to practice law: Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi believed that the quest for truth should guide and shape all professional pursuits, and he remained true to this conviction during both periods of his life when it served him well and others when it cost him dearly. How can his example inform and inspire contemporary lawyers? (Note: This presentation will include references to the Oath of Attorneys, paragraph 6 of the Preamble and Rules 3.3, 4.1 and 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.)

Answering a Call Amid Adversity

John Adams, second president of the United States, took up one of the most unpopular causes of his day – defending the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre – placing both his livelihood and his safety in considerable peril, with little prospect of reward. A deeper understanding of what and why Adams took this course of action provides a vision that can help develop and sustain a sense of calling among contemporary attorneys who face obstacles of their own. (Note: This presentation will review Rule 1.2 and the comments thereto as well as National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977).)

Calling & the Law: A Critique

For some, the expulsion of calling from the law is a good development. Calling, according to these critics, Is not only unnecessary. It is a delusion that can be harmful to lawyers and the profession. Instead of calling, the law is better served by a more realistic understanding of law as an occupation and the guidance that science can provide about how to be happy and live a full and meaningful life. (Note: This presentation will consider the lawyer well-being movement endorsed by the ABA and its interpretation of Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.)

Calling to a Higher Purpose

One of the greatest leaders in American history also spent his most formative years living in the State of Indiana, Abraham Lincoln. Having learned and practiced law under circumstances that would appear challenging to most contemporary attorneys, Lincoln managed to develop a deep understanding and appreciation of the founding documents of the United States, which he relied upon to help guide the nation through some of its most trying times. (Note: This presentation will review the Oath of Attorneys set forth in Indiana Rules for Admission to the Bar and Discipline of Attorneys and Section 33-43-1-3 of the Indiana Code.)

Atticus Finch, A Lawyer’s Calling & Race

Though he is a fictional character, Atticus Finch is arguably the most praised lawyer in American lore. Finch embodied a vision of the lawyer’s calling that was compelling for many lawyers. However, more recently, this vision has lost its luster. According to this view, Finch is a racist who violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. (Note: This presentation will include discussion of Rules 1.6 and 8.4 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.)

Conclusion: Calling, Its Absence & Possible Ways Forward

Much is at stake in whether lawyers understand their work as a calling. The consequences to the law and the legal profession of a lack of calling are likely to be significant. The old traditions are no longer viable. But there still may be a place for calling in the future of the profession. (Note: This presentation will include discussion of Rule 6.1 of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct.)



J. Mark Mutz, Chair

Mosaic Consulting, LLC, Indianapolis

Dr. Richard Gunderman, M.D., Ph.D

Chancellor's Professor, Indiana University, Indianapolis



"I read the glowing reviews from prior presentations and wondered, 'How could it actually be this good?' – Now, I know 'how'." – Anonymous

"This has been one of the most personally valuable CLEs I have attended" – Michael

"A great seminar. Interesting and Inspiring" – Ray

"More lawyers should hear this!" – William

"Wonderful! Should be mandatory for all lawyers" – Tom

"I wish this type of seminar would have been available to me when I started my practice 40-years ago” – Mark

"By far the best CLE course I have attended" – Garrett


6 CLE / 6 E - On Demand Seminar

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN • Premier Indiana CLE


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