Monday, March 16, 2009

Thoughts from the JRCLS Broadcast

Hopefully many of you got to watch the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Annual Broadcast that was last Friday. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was this year's speaker. Elder Cook is a relatively recent Apostle, sustained about a year and a half ago, so I wasn't really familiar with him or his personality before listening to the broadcast. I thought his remarks, which ranged over several topics, were thoughtful and quite relevant. I guess I wouldn't expect anything less from successful former Bay Area attorney.

My first impressions of the broadcast were completely sidetracks. First of all, they really need to work on the sound in the Small Theater of the Conference Center. The mike was way too hot, picking up every footstep on stage. Secondly, does every event associated with the Mormon Church require a musical number? The music itself was fine, but would have rather done without it. My final irrelevant (and irreverent) thought was about Cynthia Lange, the former JRCLS Chair of the Community Service and Outreach Committee. When she started her introduction I thought, "Oh no, even female attorneys can succumb to the dreaded 'Relief Society voice.'" I don't hear that tone anywhere else outside of church functions, and I find it not a little creepy.

On a more relevant note, I found some of the topics Elder Quentin Cook discussed quite interesting. For example, he referenced two recent articles in Forbes Magazine and the New York Times that criticized the legal profession's use of the billable hour. Apparently great minds think alike: We referenced the same Times article last month when we talked about the stresses LDS attorneys face while working under the billable hour.

Elder Cook discussed the U.S. Constitution, mentioning how both J. Reuben Clark and Dallin Oaks have expressed the opinion that the document was inspired. Elder Cook was careful to point out that not every word of the Constitution is inspired (the 3/5 Compromise of Art. I § 2 comes to mind), but he mentioned two key provisions that he felt were inspired by God. The first was the concept of "the Pursuit of Happiness," and how this extended well beyond the right to property. Elder Cook was careful to mention that more money doesn't necessarily mean more happiness, a mindset to which attorneys often subscribe. The same is true for prestige and position: Elder Cook said something to the effect of, "The respect for credentials can virtually become idols."

Elder Cook also opined that the protections afforded to religious practice in the Constitution were also inspired by God. He mentioned incidents in the early history of the Mormon Church when those protections weren't always recognized, and how they are still absolutely necessary today. I wholeheartedly agree -- we have touched on this topic a few times in the past.

The final thing I remember Elder Cook talking about was the duty LDS attorneys have to represent the Church. I think this can be done both directly and indirectly. Elder Cook specifically mentioned the use of interactive media, like blogging, which is near and dear to our hearts. Obviously, no one on this blog speaks for the Mormon Church or its positions, but the idea is to explore the convergence of legal issues and the Mormon faith.

However, my personal opinion is that the indirect representation of the Church is the most important. For example, there was a prominent attorney in the city where I live that everyone knew was a member of the Church. The local legal community recognized his faith as well as the fact that he was a good lawyer. Even today, many years after he moved to another city, his good example still reflects positively on the Church and other LDS attorneys here.

The JRCLS usually publishes the transcripts of broadcast addresses, so expect to see Elder Quentin Cook's remarks on the JRCLS website at some point. This summary is by no means exhaustive, so if any of you remember other topics or have other thoughts, feel free to chime in.

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