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The Supreme Court, The Law Society and You… or your Children

Judgement shall return unto righteousness. Psalm 94:15 

When I was a child, I sang the following Hymn:

Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?

Who will leave the world’s side? Who will face the foe? Who is on the Lord’s side? Who for Him will go?

By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

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We will be looking at the current problem with justice, God’s standard of justice, Plan B for training our own lawyers, the early history of the legal profession and the next legal battle looming for Ontario lawyers.

The Current Problem:  On Friday June 15th the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling, disallowing Trinity Western University from having a proposed law school. According to the National Post, there were going to be 60 more law school places available.

Trinity Western’s largely Christian students, sign a covenant agreeing to limit their sexual activity to the bounds of marriage. The LGBTQ community, obviously cannot sign that covenant. So, unless they were able to sign that covenant, or some kind of accommodation made for them, they cannot avail themselves of any of those 60 places. The court ruled that there would be ‘inequitable barriers to entry in the profession’ for the LGBTQ community.

Law Societies in Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia, took a position that if the proposed law school were approved, graduates will not be accepted to practice law in these Provinces.

At the risk of over-simplifying and for the sake of brevity, this is what I understand the issue(s) to be:

  1. Students of Trinity Western University must sign a covenant of abstinence from sexual activity unless they are married, because Scripture teaches that marriage is the rightful place of sexual activity.
  2. According to these Law Societies, by signing that covenant and living by those standards, graduates will be unable to practice law impartially in the public square in these Provinces.
  3. According to those Law Societies, the covenant discriminates against potential students who are practicing or self identifying LGBTQ, because they may not be able to sign it in good conscience. That is seen as discriminatory and exclusionary for a specific group of people in the community who may want to attend Trinity Western University, but can’t.

Trinity Western University challenged those arguments which went all the way to the Supreme Court. Their ruling disallows Trinity Western University from having a law school on the grounds that it brings harm to less than 60 students who might want to attend Trinity Western University, out of 400 potential places per year for law students right across BC.

Many news services applauded the decision. They interpreted it as a great step towards applying diversity standards equally for all Canadians. However, many Christians rightly see it as partiality in favour of the LGBTQ community.

Some lament the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has unfairly pitted the ‘rights’ of the LGBTQ community against the guaranteed Charter freedoms of association and religion, for the Christian students who choose to attend Trinity Western University and who have no problem signing the covenant.

Many Christians are disappointed. Some call for the Government of Canada to use the available constitutional tools to uphold the original intent of the framers of the Charter of Rights. The argument is that rights need to be balanced with responsibilities.

If we would like to see justice and righteousness returned to Canada, things must change.

If we are willing, we can find other creative ways of accomplishing the training of the next generation to usher in Biblical justice for all. At the heart of it, we want faithful Christians who would rule the country with righteousness and with justice. We want the kind of legal system that is impartial, and where the same law applies to ‘king’ and ‘commoner’ alike.

So let’s take a look at what that kind of justice system looks like.

God’s Standard:- God’s standard is equality before the law regardless of your differences. Humanism’s standard is equality of outcome because of your differences.

Even before God’s people got to the promised land God laid out His standard of justice, and they were reminded again and again about the sin of partiality. So friends, let’s look for a moment at what Biblical justice looks like.

In Deut 16:18-20: God said to Israel: Appoint Judges and officers in all your towns. They shall judge the people with righteous judgement. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality. You shall not receive a bribe. Justice and only justice you shall follow.

The instruction was clear and repeated numerous times in the Old and New Testaments. Listen to God’s standard of justice applied to different situations.

With respect to worship and the Passover Exodus 12:49 – The same law shall apply to both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.

With respect to murderLeviticus 22:4 – You are to have the same standard of law for the foreign resident and the native, for I am the Lord your God.

With respect to making an offering to God – Numbers 15:15 – The assembly is to have the same statute for both you and the foreign resident; it is a permanent statute for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord.

With respect to making any other offering (repeated by God) – Numbers 15:16 – The same law and the same ordinance will apply both to you and the foreigner residing with you.

With respect to making offerings for unintentional sins – Numbers 15:29 – You shall have the same law for the one who acts in error whether he is an Israelite or a foreigner residing among you.

With respect to choosing a king (read ruler) over them – Deuteronomy 17:14-20 – (paraphrased) When you come to the Promised Land, there will be peer pressure to have a king like the other nations. I will give you a king of my choosing, from among your brothers.  Don’t choose a foreigner.

The king shall not acquire many horses or send people to Egypt to acquire them. He shall not acquire many wives or they will turn his heart from God. He shall not amass silver and gold. He shall make a handwritten copy of my laws. He shall have it with him. He shall read it daily as long as he lives so that he will learn to fear God, keep His law and do it, so that he does not rule with pride over his brothers.

In the New Testament, God instructed against partiality. James 2:9 if you show partiality, you are committing sin’.

God’s standard is equality before the law regardless of your differences. Humanism’s standard is equality of outcome because of your differences.

Question: Is there any way that one can become a lawyer without going to ‘Law School’? Yes. It is possible and I call it Plan B. Let’s look at Plan B.

This link, offers an alternative path (Plan B) to becoming a lawyer by apprenticeship.  

The article states that some US States offer that path which is called reading of the law’. The serious student of the law, would apprentice in the office of a practicing lawyer or judge. Is it difficult? YES. Only a small minority of bar-exam-takers succeed this way. It includes 4 years of mentorship, thousands of hours in self-directed work, but it saves you hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt.

But surely, many hours of self-directed work is not much of a challenge to homeschoolers who are already self -directed, work independently, and continue through to high school, while taking university courses at ages 16 and 17.

In this age of Khan Academy (which offers the LSAT Prep 100% free), and with universities offering their degrees online for a small fee, can a homeschooling association like HSLDA and other Christian lawyers (in the Christian Legal Fellowship join forces to train our own lawyers?)

Who is willing to investigate this possibility?

Is going to an accredited university for a law degree a necessity? For the time being, YES. Until someone figures out how to make Plan B work. But change involves a clear vision, a multi-generational plan for establishing God’s standards of justice and righteousness, and faithful hard work.

What has been our history of the legal profession in North America?

When Canada was a mix of colonies, all legal professionals came from England. They were all trained informally through the apprenticeship program called Inns of Court. In the colonial US, there was a similar system, but around 1730 a state-administered bar exam, and an additional seven years as a legal clerk were added to the accreditation before a person was allowed to practice law.

Then, in the 1800’s in the US, colleges offered law degrees to replace the apprenticeship program. The course of studies included Biblical studies, Aristotle, Adam Smith and Montesquieu.

The historic apprenticeship program was embraced, instead of the new college programs by people such as Abraham Lincoln and Noah Webster. A famous quote of Lincoln is, “if you are absolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already… bear in mind, your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” Sir William Blackstone opted for the apprenticeship program in England as did Sir Edward Coke.

Until the 1870s, there was a combination of independent study and apprenticeship as the path to a legal profession… then came the American Bar Association. The same method of apprenticeship shaped our first Canadian Prime Minister, Sir John A MacDonald, and many of the Fathers of Confederation who were lawyers.

Today, there are four states offering accreditation through the apprenticeship program: California, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. These states allow aspiring lawyers to take the bar exam without going to law school.

New York, Maine and Wyoming offer a mix of both apprenticeship and law school.

Let’s look at The California Model: The California model is called the ‘Law Office Study Program’, under the state’s bar legal code with certain stipulations for students seeking to forgo law school. These stipulations include:

  1. committing to 18 hours/week for 4 continuous years in a practicing lawyer’s office
  2. passing the First Year Law Students’ Exams
  3. exhibiting a positive moral character determination
  4. passing a Professional Responsibility Exam
  5. passing the California Bar Exam

There are 3 challenges and 3 blessings of this model

Challenges include:

  1. Parents and students need to find willing lawyers to take on the task of multi-generational preparation. Can the Christian Legal Fellowship be helpful here?
  2. The student may fulfill his 4 years of independent study, pass all the precursory exams, and still fail the bar exam. (Will he be determined, with help from his mentor, to persevere?)
  3. Like homeschooling, this is not for everyone. Law schools come with structure – tests, deadlines and a classroom environment that some students need. However, successful students of the accredited law schools have complained that the traditional law classroom does not actually prepare you to practice law… which the apprenticeship program does.

Blessings include:

  1. Graduates, because they are mentored by Christian lawyers, get hands-on training that is potentially more consistent with Biblical principles of justice and thinking in the paradigm of God’s standard of justice and equality before the law.
  2. Graduates enter their profession debt-free. (The cost of a law degree otherwise can run as high as $100,000).
  3. Graduates are free to joyfully serve the kingdom within Christian organizations. (Many graduates of the current system often accept jobs in the Corporate world that they do not enjoy, because they are under great pressure to repay their huge debt).

So, if one were to take this route, what’s The Best Place for Success? The Washington State Model

Washington state has the highest pass rates for apprentices at 86%. The reason is because of the support and network available to create success, mainly a volunteer network setting study standards and monitoring the progress of the student. The percentage of apprentices passing the bar exam one year was almost as high as graduates from the accredited schools.

This is a difficult task, but not impossible. The challenge for Christians using it will be:

  • Mentorship
  • Community
  • Accountability for the small but dedicated group of young people who hear God’s call to work in this part of the Kingdom, to bring about fundamental changes to the scope of legal theory practiced in Canada.

Incidentally, I stumbled across an Australian law school that trains Canadian lawyers with the same method of apprenticeship. Wanna’ know how much this education costs? Yep! $100,000. And the lawyers come back to Canada, get accredited to practice in Canada,  and land prestigious jobs. Check out the link for the Bond School of Law in Australia.

Why is Plan B Essential? Plan B is needed to prepare for the next round in the war to come. When an astute atheist lawyer acts like a Christian ‘watchman on the walls’ and sounds the alarm, Christian lawyers should sit up and take notice. I am referring to an article written by lawyer Karen Selick. In her recent article, she sounded the alarm about the fact that the Law Society of Ontario developed a mandatoryStatement of Principles” for all their currently accredited lawyers to sign. (Does it remind you of the TWU covenant?). 

Lawyers are suggesting that it might be an unconstitutional move by the Law Society of Ontario prompting some to start a website stopsop.ca, to support and galvanize those who refuse to sign that Statement. More than 1,000 lawyers have already signed the petition as of March 16th, 2018.

More incursions, intrusions, impositions and social re-engineering moves being made by the Law Society of Ontario. They are also collecting demographic information by requiring lawyers to complete a questionnaire about their sexual orientation / sexual identity / race, religion, francophone status, disability and other social markers.

The plan for this information appears to be ominous, says Karen Selick. She proposes that when the next election of representatives who govern the Law Society comes up, lawyers should vote only for those who will repeal the Statement of Principles and the demographics questionnaire.

If an atheist libertarian is astute and forthright enough to provide such analysis and challenge, let’s hear from more Christian lawyers as well, with a vision to start doing more Canadian law Christianly.

Here is the last two verses of the hymn with which I started:

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Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe; But the King’s own army none can overthrow;

’Round His standard ranging, vict’ry is secure; For His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.

Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine; We are on the Lord’s side—Savior, we are Thine!

Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land; Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band;

In the service royal, let us not grow cold; Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.

Master, wilt Thou keep us, by Thy grace divine; Always on the Lord’s side—Savior, always Thine!

Let’s borrow the CHP’s slogan: Choose the people who choose the people.

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