Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Dinners

This weekend, I attended two separate dinners sponsored by organizations of religious members of the legal profession. On Friday evening, I attended a dinner sponsored by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS is the association of LDS lawyers). This evening, I attended a dinner sponsored by the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers.

I have to say, this evening's dinner was way better. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. There were people of all ages, all races, and from many different parts of the country and the world. There were an equal number of men and women, and I did not feel out of place. The people were genuinely interested in me. When I arrived at the event, I only knew one other person (the professor who invited me). By the time I left, I had exchanged business cards with several lawyers and made friends with the other law students present.

Contrast this with a typical JRCLS event, where I show up surrounded by cliquish old guys from Utah. I'm almost always the only woman present, and I'm usually ignored because the lawyers assume I'm just there tagging along as the spouse of whichever man I happen to be talking to. (I always love seeing the look on their faces when I mention that I'm the vice president of the student chapter. You would think they had seen a unicorn or something.)

Honestly, I was about ready to give up on the JRCLS. What's the point? But after attending this evening's dinner with the Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers, I think I'm going to give the JRCLS another try because I've caught the vision of what it could be.

Maybe other chapters are different, but here in the Bay Area, the local JRCLS chapters are really insular. We do devotionals and meetings, but I've never seen any community outreach. (The only exception I'm aware of is the SCU student chapter co-sponsored a faith and the law panel with several other student organizations. It was a great panel.) I would love to see a push for pro bono work in the community. I would love for the organization to be more welcoming to non-LDS attorneys (without attempting to convert them). I would love to partner with other associations of lawyers on issues of mutual concern.

We could be such a force for good in the world if we just go out there and act. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

I'm going to stick with the JRCLS and be the change I wish to see.

Note 1: I'm aware that this evening's dinner was on a Sunday. I don't feel that I was breaking the Sabbath by attending. I wouldn't attend a secular networking dinner on a Sunday, but because this was religious, I think it's fine.

Note 2: I've been pretty hard on the J. Reuben Clark Law Society in this post, so I should add that I have been to some good events. In November, I went to an event where Judge Griffith of the DC Circuit spoke, and he gave one of the most spiritually uplifting talks I've heard in a long time. And he treated me with the same respect as he treated the male guests.


jmb275 said...

I saw you leave a comment at Wheat & Tares and followed the link to your blog.

I've been reading your posts and law school adventures. It's very interesting to hear about a woman's experiences in this area.

One comment I had, was that I wondered about your 1st footnote. Why do you go to the trouble of assuring us of your conviction that you weren't breaking the sabbath? I'm struggling to understand why you feel you need to justify your actions?

Just wondering.

Keri said...

Thanks for your comment, jmb275. I'm glad you enjoy my blog.

I posted that footnote because there are varying interpretations of Sabbath behavior and I didn't want anyone thinking that I don't care about the Sabbath. I do. I just interpreted this as an appropriate activity.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I probably would have said that this was not an appropriate activity for the Sabbath, but the day before I got the invite from my professor, I received a spiritual prompting that this type of activity was appropriate. (I had no idea that such an invitation would be forthcoming, and I wasn't seeking any revelation on the subject. It came out of the blue.)

Erstwild said...

I think that was a good Sabbath activity. It's not like you went to Great America just to have fun on a Sabbath.

I think the outreach idea is great. Maybe you can influence the JRCLS for good. And, mutual concerns need a united front to face them.

Tim said...

I just graduated from law school too. A couple of us LDS students thought about setting up a local JRCLS, but never got around to it. However, Judge Griffith (who had been my stake president and institute teacher during my undergrad at BYU) came to the law school for a few days as the "Judge-in-residence," and at the end of the stay met with the tiny group of LDS students (officially, it was a meeting with students who had gone to BYU, but all of the Mormons were invited and most of us--a grand total of five--made it). It looks like I got the best part out of JRCLS without officially joining...