X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Lawyers might have a reputation for being a rather hard-nosed, ungodly lot, but ,in fact, increasing numbers are apparently turning to religion. Leading U.K. law firms are holding lunchtime religious sessions, while attendance at London churches has increased by seven percent over the last year, and 10 percent over the previous year — even though the rest of Britain has seen a decline. Scores of young professionals are now attending evangelical services held by ex-barrister Nicky Gumbel and his team of former lawyers at the trendy Holy Trinity Brompton church — HTB to the faithful — in London’s Knightsbridge district. The church has become so crowded that a portion of the congregation had been asked to go and pray in the less fashionable Hammersmith district. Attend a service and you might meet the curate — former Slaughter and May highflier Simon Downham, former barrister Sandy Millar, the vicar, or Gumbel himself, the former lawyer and religious naysayer now the priest at HTB. “We preach the traditional message,” explains Gumbel, who read law at Trinity College, Cambridge before a thriving career at 3 Hare Court. “The packaging has put people off hearing the message (of the Gospel). Changing it has removed the stumbling blocks that people had in the past.” Gumbel believes HTB caters to lawyers like himself, who want more than a career of long hours and some successful cases to look back on in retirement. “I was always going to be a lawyer,” he says. “My father put me down at birth for tax chambers. Sandy was the one who said ‘Look 10 years down the line.’ I thought, ‘Supposing I had achieved all there was to achieve at the Bar. Would I want it?’ The answer was no.” Meanwhile, Shiurim talmudic teach-ins on the Jewish faith are also becoming popular at London law firms. They were started some years ago at the Fleet Street solicitors Decheret (formerly Titmuss Sainer Dechert) by Rabbi Kimche of the Neir Yisroel congregation in northwest London, and have now spread to other firms. Michael Steinfeld, a partner specializing in corporate finance, says the weekly lunchtime sessions — which are open to people of all faiths and focus on Jewish law and writings — have proved popular. “We started them about 10 years ago, influenced by what was happening in New York and at the suggestion of a Jewish client,” he says. “Now Clifford Chance and [London law firm] Berwin Leighton have similar sessions. “It is intellectual, and gives some people a bit of a buzz. It’s thought-provoking, stimulating, and allows you to escape from the humdrum, ever-present client matters. We look at Jewish ethics and the Jewish approach to business life.” Steinfeld says religious lawyers will come across conflicts between their faith and work. “There are scenarios where any lawyer would feel what their client is doing is wrong under Jewish ethics or under the principles of most religions,” he says. “For instance, bribery and corruption, or the excessive profiteering at the expense of others, even penalty interest rates under Jewish law.” NOT ALONE Lawyers are not alone in increasingly seeking religion. Gerard Long, senior manager of network development at HSBC, draws attendances of more than 1,000 for his Christians in Finance sessions at St Margaret’s in London’s Lothbury area, opposite the Bank of England. Other London churches pull in huge audiences for lunchtime “dialogues” with television personalities such as the talk show host Clive Anderson, in order to appeal to the more modern business congregation. Studies indicate that spiritual programs at work actually result in a happier workforce and improved production. One recent research project by the international business consultancy McKinsey supported this, as have surveys by Gallup. In the U.S., workplace religion has gone even further, with blue-chip companies welcoming chaplains into their headquarters to conduct services at the start of business. One agency, Marketplace Ministries from Dallas, Tex., sends 693 ministers from different denominations into 190 firms across America, covering 165,000 employees. The Fellowship for Companies for Christ International, a kind of Christian management consulting group that helps companies form workplace prayer groups, now has 1,000 firms in its Atlanta-based fellowship and 30 annual conferences, compared with only one five years ago. It advises companies on applying “biblical principles,” such as rejecting bribery and encouraging better employee-management relations. Harvard Divinity School Professor Laura Nash, a business ethicist and author of Believers in Business, describes the movement as “exploding.” However, in the U.S., lawyers have been at the forefront of raising concerns over mixing work and religion., due partly to Constitutional guards against the mingling of church and State. President Clinton, himself a church-going Baptist, has introduced a Workplace Religion Policy to allow people to have religious conversations at work as long as they do not try to convert other employees or offend them. Steven Green, a lawyer of the organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State, reportedly claims that the trend for mixing religious messages with management is “definitely on the rise” and warns that “one person’s shared religion may be another person’s harassment. We can expect to see court cases coming out of this.” Last year, Green went undercover to a seminar in Colorado, which was sponsored by the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, at which 200 corporate lawyers gave advice on the legal problems of creating a “Christian environment” at work. “The tenor of the meeting was to advise on just how far you can go without breaking the law,” said Green. Anti-discrimination organizations in the U.S. have noticed a rise in complaints from workers who have felt pressured to join in with prayers, or ostracized if they fail to. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has noted a 30 per cent increase in discrimination complaints about religion — second only to the number of sexual harassment complaints. The lawyers at Holy Trinity Brompton would surely see the irony if their legal congregation became more overworked due to a flood of such cases in Britain.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.